These floor tiles could use foot power to light up cities
A start-up based in the UK has designed innovative floor tiles that convert mechanical energy from steps into usable electrical energy. Pavegen was founded in 2009 by Laurence Kemball-Cook, when he conceived the idea of capturing energy from busy urban spaces. But although revolutionary, it took him several years to develop the technology and convince people to take it on. ‘My idea was a floor tile that would convert the kinetic energy from a footstep into electricity,’ he says. ‘Every time someone steps on the tile, they generate 7W of power. The energy is stored within batteries, and then used to power lighting when it’s needed. It’s an off-grid power source for cities.’ Besides, solar and wind energy cannot always power street lighting efficiently, as there is a lot of shade in cities.
Pavegen now has 30 employees and a second office in Los Angeles, they have collaborated with brands such as Coca-Cola and Siemens, have installed tiles at Heathrow and are planning an installation outside the White House later this year. During last year’s World Cup, the company laid a whole football pitch with 200 tiles in a favela in Rio, so that children could continue playing soccer after dark. Some dance clubs are also using the tiles to power their light and sound systems. But electricity isn’t the only thing it generates. When jumping on the demo tiles in the Pavegen office in London, a radio turns on, and wireless data is sent out, a feature that seems promising for crowdflow modelling. ‘It’s a really key way for retailers to know how many people are visiting their shops. We imagine Google will cover streets with this in the future and use the data in interesting ways', says Kemball-Cook.
The company’s new floor tile model is called ‘V3’ and uses a triangular design to harness more power from steps (this shape maximizes both energy output and data capture). It generates 5W continuous power and it is 200 times more efficient than the previous 130 prototypes. It looks like a regular floor tile, but underneath the rubber surface lies a hub of circuitry. The only drawback remaining is its cost, as 1m2 of ground costs around £1,250 (approx. $1640) to cover. ‘The holy grail for us is to make our product the same cost as normal flooring,’ says Kemball-Cook. ‘It takes a lot of time and investment to get there,’ he adds. ‘Solar took 58 years to get to the point it’s at now. I reckon we’ve done about the first 20 years with our technology. Our investors know it’s not an overnight play. We are establishing a whole industry that never existed before.’ In the meanwhile, Pavegen hopes to install tiles in public places to raise awareness about sustainability.
Source: The guardian