A work tool, a leisure activity resource, a personal assistant - computers are ubiquitous. Yet the environmental performance for today‘s computers leaves a lot to be desired: they rapidly become obsolete, typically contain toxic substances as flame retardants and have individual components that are difficult to recycle. Moreover, they consume plenty of power whose production, in turn, causes the release of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The environmentally-sound touch-screen PC, iameco, is definitely out of the ordinary – indeed, it is made out of wood.
Employees at the MicroPro Company in Ireland, working in collaboration with colleagues at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin, have engineered a wooden-frame computer with reduced environmental impacts. As the first computer of its class, the “iameco” (pronounced “I - am - eco”) was awarded for the “EU Ecolabel,” the European Union’s environmental label.
“This touch-screen PC has a very low energy consumption over the entire lifecycle of the unit – starting from production, through the use phase to its ultimate recycling,” explains Alexander Schlösser, scientist at IZM. The carbon footprint is less than 360 kilograms CO2eq over the full product life cycle, which is 70 percent less than a typical desktop PC with monitor.
In addition, it can be easily recycled. Of the materials used, 98 percent can be recycled. Indeed, 20 percent of the computer can be recycled immediately – in other words, many parts and components can be reused for repairing other computers – such as parts of the wooden frame.
Heatsinks replace fans
But how is it possible to design such an environmentally-friendly PC? One example: to ensure that the processor does not overheat, a fan typically provides cooling to the PC. This kind of ventilation not only consumes energy, it also comes with an annoyingly incessant buzz. So, the fans were replaced with heatsinks, which convey the heat from the processor via copper tubes, called heat pipes. This fan-free design saves energy, and the computer is barely audible. The scientists also got creative with the display lighting. Instead of conventional lighting, LEDs illuminate the screen and improve its energy efficiency by 30 to 40 percent. The manufacturers reduced the hazardous materials to a minimum, and for the most part substituted halogenated flame retardants with chemicals that are less harmful to the environment. Over the long term, these halogenated ﬂame retardants should disappear from all computers.
Since the eco-PC was designed with standard components, users can retrofit it anytime – for example, if more internal memory is needed. And if the computer were to crash , the users would benefit from the improved dissasembly and modular design of the device. This enables the capability for easier repair and maintenance. Only those components will be replaced that are so severely damaged that they can no longer be repaired. The better maintenance option ensures a longer product life, and the easily conducted repairs ensure a high degree of environmentally sound engineering. In the next stage, the manufacturer intends to expand the modularity of the computer so that after a few years, users can equip older computers with a new internal life. The “old” computer would then return to the latest state of the art – and would cost only half as much as a completely new PC. The employees at MicroPro and IZM want to continue collaborating in the future as well. At this time, they are jointly developing an environmentally-friendly wooden frame notebook.
Alexander Schlösser | Fraunhofer Research News
Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion
24.07.2017 | Vanderbilt University
Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot
21.07.2017 | Stanford University
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
25.07.2017 | Life Sciences