It seems that everyone today is tracking their steps. One company believes that the ambient kinetic energy of footsteps may power cellphones and other devices in the not-too-distant future. Pavegen is currently testing this theory at London’s Heathrow Airport, among other locations.
How the Technology Works
As Roadwarriorvoices.com reports, Pavegen has created floor tiles that compress 5 mm when a person steps on them. Copper coils, magnets and batteries underneath the tile harness the footfall energy and then convert it to electricity. Pavegen estimates that each footstep can generate enough power to light a LED light bulb for 30 seconds.
The high tech tiles are currently installed in more than 100 high-traffic public spaces in 30 different countries around the world, including a football stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Saint-Omer train station in northern France.
At Heathrow Airport, the energy harnessed from the tiles has primarily been used to power interactive bulbs to attract the attention of passersby. But Pavegen company founder Laurence Kemball-Cook envisions using the technology for other purposes. A successful crowdfunding campaign this summer raised more than $3 million, which will provide the financial backing for the inventor and his team to more fully explore the potential of the technology.
Exciting Potential Applications
An article posted on technologyreview.com points out that there are many interesting applications for this technology. As a public service, it could help guide individuals through an airport via lighted directional arrows. Businesses could use the technology to power lit advertisements.
On a personal level, individuals may be able to use the energy generated from their footsteps to recharge their cellphones or laptops. For this to happen, there must be a way to transfer the energy through shoes. Experts don’t seek this as a huge problem, as light-up shoes for young children, which operate on a more primitive yet similar technology, have been in existence since 1992.
Focusing on the fitness connection, Kembell-Cook has been in discussion with consumer footwear manufacturers such as Nike and Reebok. “You could walk from work and charge your phone en route, instead of waiting to use a charger at home. Runners could charge their music players during a jog,” he told technologyreview.com.
Even the U.S. military is interested in this technology. It reasons that if the technology can be incorporated into army boots, it would offer soldiers a solution for capturing and creating energy sources when serving in remote regions.
Harrys of London, a boutique shoemaker, agrees that the innovative idea has potential but must be designed with care because ultimately footwear must be comfortable and look attractive before people will buy it.