Thursday, January 3, 2008

Green Gadgets at Electronics Show

Consumer electronics consume electricity that contributes to global warming, and toxins leach out of them when they end up in landfills. They are not exactly easy on the environment. That is why at the world’s largest trade show for consumer electronics, starting Monday in Las Vegas, manufacturers will be talking not just about megahertz, megapixels and megabytes. They will discuss smart power adapters that do not waste as much batteries, electricity that are easier to recycle and components made from plants.

The industry is realizing more and more products that are not harmful for the environment, going “green” can be a powerful marketing tool. “Everything I’ve heard from folks out there is that there is going to be a lot of emphasis on green this year,” said Scot Case, a vice president at consultancy TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc.

According to Richard McCormack, senior vice president of marketing at Fujitsu’s U.S. arm, environmental awareness among corporations and consumers has now reached the point where manufacturers really are taking notice. Moreover, one of the 2,700 exhibitors at the International Consumer Electronics Show will be Japan’s Fujitsu Ltd., which will show off a laptop with a plastic case made from corn rather than petroleum products. The company has sold such a model in Japan since 2006, but is now considering taking the model to the North American market.

The catch with the corn-based laptop is that the material is not biodegradable, meaning it does not decompose any faster than regular plastic. That is because it still contains some petroleum-based plastic in the mix for rigidity. The plastic still needs to be processed for recycling, after which the corn-based component can biodegrade.

Z-Power is another company that attacking the recycling angle. The company has developed a battery technology that it hopes will replace the lithium-ion batteries that power today’s cell phones and laptops. According to the Camarillo, Calif., company’s chief executive, Ross Dueber, its silver-zinc batteries will show up in laptops from a “major” manufacturer in the summer.

Lithium-ion batteries are recyclable. However, it contains little recoverable material. According to Dueber, the metals in Z-Power’s batteries will be recoverable. Moreover, he said that with a precious metal like silver in them, there would be a strong incentive to do so. The capacity should be 20-30% higher than lithium-ion laptop batteries. In addition, the company is also in discussions with cell-phone manufacturers.

According to Jeff Ziegler, chief executive of Austin-based TechTurn Inc., PC makers have already come a long way toward making their products recyclable, which processes millions of used computers and other gadgets every year for reuse or recycling. In addition, manufacturers have cut down on the number of different materials that go into their products, simplifying recycling a great deal. They have also cut back on lead solder and other poisonous components.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are only few manufacturers, like Sony Corp., take responsibility for recycling their products. Only 12.5% percent of U.S. electronics waste is offered for recycling each year. Moreover, much of that is dumped rather than recycled.

At the event, the EPA will be announcing a campaign to provide consumers with more places to turn in cell phones for recycling, in partnership with manufacturers and retailers. The agency puts the number of unused cell phones lingering in drawers at 100 million. In addition, at the event, manufacturers are expected to trot out computers that meet the EPA’s new, tougher Energy Star 4.0 power consumption requirements, which went into effect in July. This new specification sets maximum levels for power consumption when the computer is on but idle – previously, Energy Star dealt only with the ability to enter “sleep” mode.

Not many desktop computers qualifying for the Energy Star rating – their power consumption is growing, with many now hitting 400 watts. Marvell Technology Group Ltd. will be demonstrating chips for power adapters, which it says can curb that trend, by convert alternating current into the direct current in a more efficient way, potentially power consumption by half.

The Consumer Electronics Association has estimated last year that consumer electronics, including home computers, consume 11% of residential electricity in the U.S., more than doubling its share in 10 years. Television sets are another big power draw, and will become more so as analog TVs are replaced with high-definition sets. Though more energy efficient per inch of screen size, their larger size more than makes up for any gain in efficiency. Plasma sets in particular easily draw 400 watts, or as much as four older tube-type TVs.
For now, however, the technology is much too expensive for the mass market, and there's no word on when or if Samsung plans to sell the screen. Sony has announced an 11-inch OLED display for $1,700. A much more power-efficient screen technology will be on display at CES: Samsung Electronics Co. will be bringing a 31-inch TV made of organic light emitting diodes, or OLEDs.

Thank you for visiting SurayBlog

No comments:

Useful Posts