This week at TreeHugger: Big news about advances in nanotechnology in microchips and energy efficiency in processors have us computing for joy. Apple, despite making so many things we love, is lagging behind the curve when it comes to recycling and toxicity. Remember the first cell phones; the ones that closely resembled bricks in appearance and weight? The Voller fuel cell battery charger is a mobile charging equivalent, but'll keep your iPod juiced up for a full week per cylinder of hydrogen. Lastly, we bring you the SolarVenti, a solar powered ventilator and dehumidifier that helps keep things from getting too damp in your house, no matter how much heavy breathing you do.
We like computers as much as the next guy (and maybe a little more) but we like cool, TreeHugger-friendly implementations of technology that helps computers work better a lot (and a lot more than the next guy). So we were excited to find not one, but two stories about computer researchers and manufacturers making inroads into TreeHugger technology. First, University College London has a team of researchers who might've come up with a greener microchip, using UV light at a wavelength of 126 nanometers. Seems that particular wavelength between 125 and 127 nanometers causes oxygen molecules to energize atoms ideal for oxidizing silicon, without heating it. Microchips that usually have to be heated to 1,000°C (1,832°F) might now be able to be made at room temperature on cloth, paper and plastic. Secondly, AMD's new Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2 and Sempron processors are now available for retail sale. The new energy-efficient versions cut the power requirements of desktop processors by over one-third, boosting the performance-per-watt process; they also cut down on fan power used because they run cooler.
Apple sure makes some great gadgets and computers, but the iLife isn't as harmonious as it seems. The company is lagging behind in its recycling program for older computers, and in the elimination of toxic components in new computers. Apple will not recycle its older computers for free, unless you are buying a new Apple to replace it; when it comes to new computers, they are mostly free of heavy metals, but their components still contain a host of nasty acronyms: PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), TBBA (tetrabromobisphenol A) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride); the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive does not approve. While we're at it, we aren't hugs fans of Steve Jobs' turtleneck, but we still loves us some iPods and some OS X, so we'll still line up to buy whatever fruit-branded gadgets hit the shelves next.
We remember when the first cell phones came out, and they were either big cumbersome bricks or you carried them in a what would resemble a contemporary laptop bag. These days you can lose your cell phone or similar gadget anywhere, but you still have to plug 'em in for recharging. We suspect that the 20 pound briefcase-sized Voller Automatic Battery Charger is but the first of many devices that will solve this problem; it is a hydrogen-powered Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell. It has USB, cigarette lighter and mains sockets, can continuously pump out 65 AC watts and will run an iPod for a week on a cylinder of hydrogen.
Lastly, take a peek at the SolarVenti, a solar-powered ventilator and dehumidifier from the U.K. The device works by warming cold night air, and moving it inside your home or vehicle or other enclosed dwelling. The designer explains the operation this way: "After a cold night all of the atmospheric moisture is lying on the ground as dew or frost leaving a very dry but cold atmosphere. SolarVenti takes in this cold dry air and warms it before pumping it into your house where it sucks out moisture from the fabric of your property and replaces the colder damper atmosphere." Hmm. The device has no operating costs, and it can be fitted to any South, South West or South East facing wall where there is little or no shade. Once installed, it'll help keep that musty old desk chair from getting too funky, no matter how many hours per day you spend gaming in it.
TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.