KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON: The kinetic energy harvested from this bus stop could create enough electricity to power the street around it. (Photo: Simon_sees/Flickr)
Here's another reason to ditch the car and start walking: Pavegen tiles, which derive electricity by capturing the kinetic energy in our footsteps.
Made largely from recycled materials, including the Nike Grind generated from the company's Reuse-a-shoe program, this flooring consists of mostly rubber and some stainless steel and is designed for a long life of outdoor activity. Each tile also contains a small LED in the center, which allows the walker to see the energy collected from their movement. As the person moves over the device, it compresses approximately 5 millimeters, and the captured energy can then be stored in a battery or used to power low-wattage projects, such as street lamps.
The CEO of the company, Laurence Kembell-Cook, visualizes their use in metropolitan areas where heavy sidewalk traffic could be used to illuminate street lights, billboards, bus stops and even neighboring buildings. Of course, the potential for these tiles is limitless. Imagine installing them not only on city sidewalks, where each tile is said to produce 2.1 watts of electricity/hour, but in major tourist hot spots like theme parks, school hallways, airports or malls. Like to dance? What a fantastic way to power your disco ball and sound system than with the kinetic energy released from the tiles lighting up the floor beneath you!
Nike envisions even more uses for Pavegen. On its website, the company asks, "So what's next? Basketball courts made with retired kicks that light entire neighborhoods? Sustainable gym floors that create enough juice for the smoothie shop next door?"
While Pavegen is rolling out in East London and still testing its product in different formats such as schools, this is a very innovative device that could redefine the way we look at alternative energy sources.
Don't live in a high foot-traffic area, or have no plans of hitting the dance floor?
Other companies are also working on ways to convert vehicular motion into electricity. KinergyPower has developed an "alternative energy system that captures kinetic energy from the weight and momentum of decelerating traffic and converts it into clean, reliable, renewable electricity."
Similar to the Pavegen tiles, KinergyPower uses roadways with a consistent flow of traffic that drive over carpets with hydraulic pistons in them. When the pistons are compressed under the weight of the vehicle, it pushes the hydraulic fluid through the system, which in turn powers a generator that creates the clean electricity. The more weight applied, the better the output. According to the website, "Our technology will slow the vehicle/train down reducing the need to brake, simultaneously capturing the energy that would otherwise be lost through braking and weight displacement."
Wow. Think of powering a toll booth facility with the kinetic energy of the cars and tractor-trailers that stop to pay. Or rest areas, travel centers, bus stops, even replacing speed bumps or harvesting the energy of cars pulling up curbside to drop off a passenger at the airport? KinergyPower goes on to explain that "100 meters of KinergyPower carpets can harvest enough electricity to annually power"
one North American home from an average daily traffic pattern of either 275 cars or 10 loaded trucks
a minimum of 350 homes from the traffic at a Travel Center located on typical US interstate visited daily by 3,500 trucks
a minimum of 110 homes from a bus depot with 2,000 bus trips (considers multiple trips per bus) a day
While I can't wait to see these products in use worldwide, I am also flabbergasted by the potential for future innovations. What's next in line? KinerRail, also from KinergyPower but still in research, works in train rails rather than on roadways. Several companies have proposed capturing the heel strikes of people walking down stairs, in places such as subway systems and tourist attractions. Even rocking chairs are being designed to power your reading light while you move, window blinds to collect solar energy, and jeans that can help recharge your cell phone when made from energy-conductive textiles.
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