By John DeFore
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), that annual extravaganza of all things juice-sucking, is focused on the future when it comes to big-screen TVs and high-speed networks, but less so when it comes to concern over the long-term impact of all that power consumption. Still, gadget-makers recognize the growing desire for more sustainable goods, and this year’s CES, held January 7-10 in Las Vegas, boasted a few hopeful developments:
- Fujitsu showed off a LifeBook notebook computer whose shell is largely made from a corn-derived resin known as PLA, which is biodegradable and gives off no dioxins when burned. At the end of its life, the chassis can be mulched and then degrades. The company hasn’t yet come up with an enclosure that’s completely free of petroleum products, however, and the laptop is currently available only in Japan.
- Solar backpacks, which store a charge while users hike, have been around for a while, but their usefulness has been limited to small gear like cell phones. A new briefcase from Voltaic Systems puts an end to that, with a solar panel and battery capable of charging a typical laptop from one day’s worth of sunlight. The Voltaic Generator case is made from 100 percent recycled PET plastics and comes with common adapters to fit various computers. Retail price: $599.
- In less mobile solar news, NRG touted two solutions for using the sun to recharge personal electronics — a large one capable of charging a laptop for house use and a smaller apartment model that can’t charge computers — both of which allow their photo voltaic panels to be located away from the charging station.
- ZPower drew attention for a new kind of silver-zinc battery that it claims can run for longer than a similarly sized lithium-ion battery, eliminates the fire-hazard problems that have plagued some lithium-ion models, and uses materials that are easily recyclable and reusable.
- Belkin’s Conserve power strip, available in stores this summer, addressed the growing awareness that many electronics draw substantial electricity even when they’re turned off: Since most users have their power strips in out-of-the-way places where unplugging them every time they’re not in use is unwieldy, Conserve incorporates a remote control that completely shuts off power to selected devices.
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