Green marketing apparently influential

My latest Clean Break poll has been up for a month now (the new standard), so I figured it’s time to assess the result. Out of 78 votes, 81 per cent of you said green marketing influences your purchasing decisions. Of this group, 59 per cent said they were “frequently” influenced by green marketing campaigns while the other 41 per cent said they were “occasionally” influenced. Okay, I know this preaches to the converted.

Overall, however, 8 per cent did say they are never influenced and 10 per cent admitted that, for them, price remains king.

Harvesting energy from the RF signals that surround us

Thanks to for alerting me to this very cool story about Hawaii-based Ambient Micro LLC, which has developed a way of harvesting small amounts of power from the ambient radiowaves that surround us every day. The company calls its process the “recycling of radiowaste,” and it initially envisions its technology replacing batteries that would be used in smoke alarms, RFIDs and other sensor-dependent devices that consume very small amounts of power.

The story, which appeared in the Honolulu Star Bulletin, reports that Ambient Micro recently snagged a $100,000 (U.S.) research contract with the U.S. Air Force to develop a prototype power supply for sensors on tiny intelligence drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles.

“The emergency of ambient energy as a viable alternative power source is really driven by the advancements in semiconductor design,” company president Scott Weeker told the paper, though he admitted the technology wouldn’t collect nearly enough energy to power something like a laptop, let alone a car. But, he added, “Things that used to require watts of power are now running on milliwatts and will soon only require microwatts.”

According to the article, “Ambient Micro’s goal is to develop a tiny device that harvests not only photons (visible light and invisible electromagnetic radiation), but also converts sound waves, vibrations and hot-cold temperature differences into power.”


So, it appears Nikola Tesla’s dream of wireless power transmission is alive and well. Mind you, Tesla envisioned massive amounts of electricity being transmitted through the air. Fact is, the idea of collecting small amounts of energy from radiowaves, or transmitting small quantities of power wirelessly over short distances, has been around for years. Splashpower Inc., for example, has a product today that lets you wirelessly charge cellphones and other small gadgets over extremely short distances — basically by resting the device on a charging pad. But Ambient Micro would take this idea to another level, by literally — and freely — plucking photons out of the surrounding environment.

It would be nice to see a replacement for small batteries made of toxic materials, and radiowaves — like the sun and wind — are all around us so might as well use them. As for creating power from hot-cold differentials, if this could be done couldn’t you then use geoexchange systems as a power source? Curious. And converting sound into electricity? Even more curious.

Anyway, an interesting development to follow, but it does raise this question: If you can turn stray cellphone signals into power, then are we really doing damage to ourselves by pressing these devices to our heads for hours each day? Freaky.

Far-off impacts of global warming not so far off

My Clean Break column in today’s Toronto Star was more of a rant than usual, but given the potentially catastrophic impact of global warming, I felt compelled to add my small voice to the mix of views and opinions. I did, however, have help from Joseph Romm, author of The Hype about Hydrogen and a new book on global warming expected to come out early next year (also check out this recent Q&A in Earth & Sky). I had a chance to interview Romm by telephone last week.

Basically, my column comes to the conclusion that market forces alone won’t be enough to avert a climate disaster, and that we need a combination of mandates, creative tax policy and aggressive action to have an impact. I also take a shot at the oil sands in Alberta.

For another view on this incredibly important issue, check out this guest column in the San Jose Mercury News.