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  • Kreeshna Mehta

Taking 'Power' Walking Quite Literally

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Edited by Kimberley Chee.


Energy can neither be destroyed, nor can it be created. It can simply be transformed from one form to another. This is one of the most basic principles in science, and applies to several sustainable energy forms such as that of wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal.


Each of these energy sources rely on kinetic energy, generated by the elements that surround us. However, a UK technology company called Pavegen has created a different way in which we can maximize kinetic energy to create green electricity.


This company has created tiles that give power to your feet— or rather to make the most out of your feet to create power. Through their development in this technology, the future of green energy is unlimited. In simple terms, placing these power tiles under areas of high volume of movement can start producing high volumes of electricity.


So, how does this work?


Every time a person steps on the tile, it causes pressure to be exerted on the tiles which results in a 5mm compression. This in turn generates 7-8 watts of electrical energy: 5% of it is repurposed to power the mechanics of the tiles, while 95% of it is stored to produce off-grid power⁴. The actual technology being used behind these tiles is unknown, but there have been speculations that they use piezoelectric sensors.


This energy can be utilized to power street lights, traffic lights, advertisements and appliances. The tiles produce off-the-grid power to the devices they’re linked up with. The energy created is stored within the batteries in the tiles that can then be used as a remote power source when required.


Where has this technology been used?


Currently, Pavegen has had several installments in areas of dense movements such as the Heathrow Airport Terminal 3, a football pitch in a favela in Rio, and in the Paris Marathon². The several runners in it were not aware that with every step they took to overcome the colossal distance left ahead of them, they were generating 7 watts of electricity. The marathon was a part of a historical moment that showed us the creative ways we can positively exploit this technology.


Pavegen has conducted several other case studies all over the world such as in the Dubai Expo, the World Expo 2017 in Kazakhstan, the University of Birmingham, and schools, namely the Simon Langton School and Benford Modern School².


How did this innovation come to place?


The founder of Pavegen, Laurence Kemball-Cook, got the idea to create these tiles when his task to harness solar and wind energy in cities did not perform optimally¹. The shade and blockage of wind due to the buildings around were making it difficult for him to generate enough power.


So Laurence looked around him.


What is the one thing that never reduces in cities? Something that is always available in bulk, despite the hour? Human traffic. A sea of people walking on the pavements trying to get from point A to B, trying to make ends meet every single day. He immediately started working on this technology that could make good use of the energy produced by pedestrians as they walked³.


By working on his initial concept over and over again, he developed this revolutionary technology that will change the outlook on how we can maximize using the energy around our environment.


The Future of Pavegen


Since the conception of these tiles, several changes have been made to ensure its efficiency: Their shapes have progressed from square to triangular, in order to increase the contact area. Along with being remarkable in terms of their usage, what makes these tiles even better is the fact that they are made up of 80% recycled materials⁴, which means that the company maintains a very low carbon footprint.


With more breakthroughs in the development of these tiles, for example, to endure certain weather conditions and physical battering, the applications of these tiles would vary in a very versatile field. It would open up the possibilities like running sections of school using power created by the students who walk down the hallways or lighting up malls with the energy created by the shoppers.


The methods of using these tiles are endless. More often than not, the solutions to our problems are right under our noses; in this case, the solution to the energy crisis may very well be under our feet!

 

Glossary

  1. Green Electricity: energy generated from natural resources such as wind, solar, water.

  2. Piezoelectric: the ability of certain materials to generate an AC (alternating current) voltage when subjected to mechanical stress or vibration

 

References:

  1. This company created floor tiles that convert footsteps into energy Yahoo! Sports. Yahoo! Available at: https://sports.yahoo.com/company-created-floor-tiles-convert-022800955.html#:~:text=A%20company%20called%20Pavegen%20has,joules%20of%20energy%20per%20footstep.

  2. Every step generates a powerful connection Pavegen. Available at: https://www.pavegen.com/.

  3. The floor tiles that use foot power to light up cities (2015) The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jan/11/floor-tile-generates-power-from-footsteps-energy-electricity-startup

  4. Energy Harvesting Flooring (no date) Energy harvesting flooring. Available at: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2014/ph240/fujimoto1/



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