Future cities may use human footsteps as energy source


If you’ve ever wondered what energy sources cities may use in the future, don’t need to look further than your own two feet. CNN’s “Tomorrow Transformed” column says that cities could one day use human footsteps as energy.

What makes footfall energy harvesting possible? In 1880, brothers Jacques and Pierre Curie created a technology called the piezoelectric effect, wherein they were able to produce electric charges from putting pressure onto crystals.

Piezoelectric devices are now easier to manufacture than ever, and companies such as Pavegen are using piezoelectric technologies to develop power generators in unusual places. Pavegen’s power-generating systems come in the form of pavements, football fields, and school hallways.

Pavegen CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook told CNN he got the idea to harvest footfall energy when walking through a busy train station in London. He sees the potential in gathering energy from footsteps that wouldn’t be used otherwise. They currently use a deflecting pad covered with soft playground-like material to gather energy. A single step produces up to seven watts.

“Most people go to a gym so why are we plugging in those treadmills?” Kemball-Cook says. “Why not have those self-powered to charge your cellphone? To power the aircon in the building? Use the energy in a new way?”

Some cities like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil have already reaped the benefits of Pavegen’s innovention. A local football pitch in Morro da Mineira uses 200 kinetic tiles along with solar panels to power their lights. On a full battery, the lights can be powered for up to 10 hours. Soon enough, even more largely-populated area could be using piezoelectric technology to power their cities.

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