We have seen wooden-framed computers before, although those have generally been off-the-shelf machines that have simply received a steampunk makeover. A team of engineers from Ireland’s MicroPro Computers and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration have gone considerably farther, however. Their wood-bodied iameco (“I am eco”) v3 touchscreen computer reportedly has 70 percent less carbon footprint than a regular desktop PC with a monitor.
First of all, the wood isn’t just there to look pretty. It’s part of the team’s effort to minimize the amount of toxic substances used in the production of the computer, or that will end up in the environment once it’s discarded – there’s no word on if the wood is reclaimed from other sources, or if it comes from virgin timber.
Other considerations in its construction include the use of passive copper heat sinks in place of an energy-consuming cooling fan, LED screen lighting that is said to improve its energy efficiency by 30 to 40 percent, and the almost total substitution of halogenated ﬂame retardants with less toxic materials.
According to Fraunhofer, 98 percent of the machine can be recycled once it’s no longer in use. In fact, 20 percent of the computer can be recycled as is, without any processing – an example is the wooden frame, which could simply be transferred to another computer.
Ideally, however, it will be some time before anyone just wishes to get rid of their entire v3. It has a modular design and standard components, in order to encourage users simply to replace individual parts as needed. The engineers are also looking at ways in which older iamecos could be selectively upgraded to have the specs of brand new machines, instead of being entirely replaced. It’s an idea similar to that of Stanford University’s Bloom laptop concept.
MicroPro has actually been producing eco-friendly computers since 1992. The collaboration with Fraunhofer on the new machine is a recent development, however – as is the v3’s receiving of an EU Ecolabel, which the European Union awards to environmentally-friendly products.
There’s currently no word on price or availability, although a low-impact wooden-framed notebook computer is apparently also in the works.