Many feet make lights work

Posted by Laura Grant on June 17, 2008
Posted in Renewable energy

Engineers in Britain have come up with a way to generate electricity from the footsteps of people walking across floors. Under-floor generators that are powered by “heel strikes” may soon be installed in supermarkets and railway stations, according to an article in the UK’s Sunday Times.

The new underfloor generators work like this: a footstep would compress a pad under the floor, driving fluid through mini-turbines that would generate electricity that would be stored in batteries. Engineers at British firm Scott Wilson have modelled the effects of this technology at London’s Victoria tube station, where 34,000 travellers are said pass through every rush hour, and have calculated that they could generate enough electricity to power 6,500 lightbulbs. The firm is in negotiations to install the devices at the station, the Sunday Times reports.

Harvesting energy generated by walking is not a new idea, it was pioneered by the US military and Trevor Baylis, inventor of the Freeplay wind-up radio, was developing a shoe with a device in the the heel that could charge your iPod while you walked. But, it seems the shoe had to be put on hold for a while because of the September 11 bombings in the US – concerns about terrorism may have put wearers of such shoes at risk of being mistaken for terrorists. [Guardian].

The Victoria station underfloor generator idea appears to be the brainchild of British architecture firm The facility, which is doing interesting R&D work on “technology that recycles wasted environmental energy”, or “energy harvesting”. According to their website they develop devices to convert the mechanical movement associated with footsteps or transport vibration into electricity. Besides the Victoria Station idea, they list others such as illuminating a railway tunnel from the vibration within the structure; powering traffic lights through the vibrations produced from passing traffic; harnessing engine vibrations to recharge your mobile phone; feeding the floodlights of Wembley from spectators climbing the stadium staircases; capturing lost energy from machinery to sell back to the grid; and driving the plasma screens at your local gym while you exercise.

This begs the question, would you work harder at the gym if you knew you were responsible for generating the electricity to run the TVs or keep the lights on? Or would you just go to another gym? And would you do it if they paid you for the electricity you generate?


One Response to “Many feet make lights work”

  1. Mother City Living » Eternally optimistic: this week’s (good) green news (19.06.08)
    October 9th, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

    […] ‘Many feet make lights work‘ – Engineers in Britain have come up with a way to generate electricity from the footsteps of people walking across floors. ( Share this!SubscribeDiggdel.icio.usFacebookRedditStumbleUponTechnorati […]

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