Today, our civilization stands at a critical juncture. Rising pollution, global climate change, and growing energy demand have prompted us to adopt clean energy at a scale never seen before. When clean energy first made headway in the global scenario, it was welcomed with many speculations and doubt. But, despite all the doubts clean energy continued to grow. There have been many innovations in the clean energy sector since it was first introduced. Solar, wind, hydropower, and Geothermal are providing new solutions for mobility and energy security worldwide. But, what if we told you, you are an incredible source of untapped renewable energy too? We are very close to taking a giant leap in sustainable energy by generating energy from something that we do every day – walk! If everything goes right, this technology could very well represent a leap into the future of renewable energy production. Let’s find out more about this technology and what promises it holds for a better world.
The Underlying Principle
Energy producing floors derive their energy from ‘piezoelectricity’. As people walk over the smart floors, the mechanical pressure causes a negative charge on the expanded side and a positive charge on the compressed side. Once the pressure is relieved, it causes a flow of electric current. The electric charge thus produced is captured by floor sensors and then stored and used as a power source.
Will Energy from Footsteps be Enough to Power Our Homes?
Studies conducted at various institutions suggest that a significant amount of electricity can be generated by installing these devices at places where there is high footfall. One footstep generates enough electric current to light two 60-watt bulbs for a second; more people walking on piezoelectric floors would mean a greater amount of power will be produced.
Energy producing floors can be incorporated in high footfall areas and even on dance floors. The energy thus produced will be enough to power homes, local systems such as street lights and signing systems. The Energy producing floors can even be incorporated in Energy floor smart grids, which can be used to create self-sustained energy systems. Other use cases include:
- Digital advertising
- Charging stations
- Railway stations
- Entry and exit gates
Is it Strong Enough to Endure High Footfall and Extreme Temperature?
The initial tests conducted in laboratories show that the technology works for millions of cycles without any problem. The Bird Street installation in Britain is one of the busiest public places where Energy producing floor has been installed by PaveGen Systems, a British company. The results have been very positive so far. It was able to work without fault when it was 30°C in the air and even when the temperature was cold. Its water and fire resistant quality makes it a technology – “designed to live in hell”.
Is it Affordable?
As far as the cost is concerned, presently, the tiles are comparable to very high-end flooring but as the scale and demand increase, the prices are expected to go down. Furthermore, even if the cost of flooring is high, it will be compensated for by the energy saved. In the future, energy producing tiles are expected to become more affordable for several reasons:
- The production is going to be a lot cheaper when done on a larger scale
- Batteries are expected to become cheaper with the help of Tesla’s gigafactory.
Companies Working on This technology
PaveGen – A British Company is making this technology commercially available in the UK and other countries. The present design features a triangular shape, which is meant to easily integrate into public spaces. This also works well to maximize energy capture and output. The present version developed by the company is far more durable, efficient and powerful than the initial version, which was created in 2009.
Energy Floors – A Dutch Company has created the world’s first dance floor that harvests human energy. Energy Floors is the first company to explore the concept of deriving renewable energy from a fun activity like dance. This exciting project presents a huge opportunity for harvesting human energy.
Veranu – An Italian Company is working on an innovative technology that can be implemented in the raised floor that converts the kinetic energy of the footsteps into clean electrical energy by the piezoelectric effect. Just like PaveGen, it focuses primarily on the built environment, with installations across the globe.
To date, wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power have been hogging all the renewable energy headlines. But with all the progress that has happened in recent years, human-powered renewable energy will soon be contributing to the expanding suite of renewable energy options that we have today!