The company Pavegen Systems has developed an innovative approach that takes advantage of every step, converting kinetic energy into electricity. Tiles of 45 x 60 cm, are designed to be placed in areas where many people gather, such as train, metro, or bus stations, airports, schools and malls. Thus, the energy generated by millions of footsteps can be used in many applications, such as signage, street lighting, digital displays or for Wi-Fi areas.
Pavegen tiles allow 5% of the electricity generated by a transient’s steps to instantly turn on a lamp at the center of the tile, while the rest (95%) is stored in a battery or is used directly as low voltage power in off-grid applications. A step generates, on average, 7 watts of electricity, although it depends on the person’s weight. According to the company, only twelve tiles could generate the light required for two streets of a large city. The tiles are water resistant, and can therefore withstand rain, snow and ice, and tests have shown that they could have at least a five years lifespan. Moreover, according to National Geographic, they are designed to minimize the carbon footprint. The topcoat is made of recycled tires rubber and approximately 80% of the polymers used for the other components can be recycled.
Projects in Europe
In Europe nearly 30 Pavegen projects have successfully been carried out. For example, last summer, a smart tile system was implemented near the access to the Olympic Park in London, where 12 million footsteps were captured producing 72 million joules, enough energy to charge 10,000 mobile phones for an hour. In a school in Canterbury, the energy of its 1,100 students’ footsteps keeps the center’s corridors lit. These tiles were also useful in music festivals to charge cell phones and power LED technology lights. Recently, Pavegen partnered with Siemens to install their tiles in Federation Square in Melbourne (Australia) and they have plans for a London train station and a shopping center in Athens.
Pavegen Systems is a British company launched in 2009 by Laurence Kemball-Cook, a 26 years old Londoner who got the idea while studying industrial design and technology at the University of Loughborough. His “light bulb of creativity lit” while he was sitting on a bench in a train station, watching the incessant movement of thousands of people. Thus, Kemball began developing the idea of creating a tile capable of producing energy by using piezoelectric materials and through something as simple as walking.