This week at TreeHugger: We watch as the world's first AA battery-powered airplane takes flight and soars...400 meters. The Wright brothers have nothing on these guys. Here's another one of those ideas that just makes sense: a solar-powered, Bluetooth-enabled GPS receiver. Sometime this week, the self-proclaimed "Bullet on Wheels" will be shooting for the world record for distance covered in a human-powered machine over a 24 hour period. Finally, here's a way to power your iMac using any fuel: the steam-powered internet machine. Why hasn't anyone thought of this sooner?
The world's first battery-powered airplane, carrying a real, live, human passenger, recently took flight for it's maiden voyage. No matter that it took 160 of the damn AA batteries to get the plane and 117 lb. test-pilot Tomohiro Kamiya airborne, and that the plane, with the help of seven enthusiastic assistants (looks like they were blowing on the underside of the wings), only traveled about 400 meters. The important part: the flight on Sunday, July 16, 2006, was officially accredited by the Japan Aeronautic Association as the world's first manned flight powered by dry-cell batteries. Battery-powered flight...what will they think of next?
If the pilot of the plane in the story above would have made it beyond the runway from which he took off, this solar-powered, Bluetooth-enabled GPS receiver might have come in handy (it certainly wouldn't have sucked any of the precious juice from his batteries). Manufactured by Proporta, the receiver can be charged by the sun via the small panel on one side. The panels will even work with non-sun light sources, so if you can get the GPS to within, say, a foot of task lighting (or within a few more feet of, say, the Aurora Borealis, should you find yourself trekking about the Northern Hemisphere in view of the magical lights), that'll do the job, too.
Meanwhile, back on earth, a world-record just might go down this week. Using a recumbent bike encapsulated in an aerodynamic carbon-fiber shell capable of exceeding 60 miles an hour, the "Bullet on Wheels" will soon be shooting for the world record for human-powered distance covered in a 24 hour period. Pilot and revered bicycle nut Greg Kolodziejzyk will assail the 11-year-old record of 634.6 miles (1,021.36 km) in a day sometime between July 19 and 24, depending on the weather. Here's hoping he can find a tailwind somewhere out there, as well.
Lastly, now that the first decade of the 21st Century is more than half over, we're glad to see that someone has come up with a new way, using any fuel, to power our gadgets and electronics. That's the beauty of Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane's idea: steam engines are external combustion engines, so you should be able to boil water with anything from cow patties to biodiesel, and power your iMac with it, right? "We were thinking about something that connects the industrial revolution and the digital revolution," said Deller. Kane added: "They are worlds apart but there's also a proximity. The steam age and the digital age are not so far apart." So far, it isn't a terribly efficienct way to tap into the power of the information superhighway, but it does recycle a 1945 Merryweather boiler with brass taps, a whistle and smart teak cladding.
TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.