Pavegen’s technology enabled last weekend’s Paris Marathon to become the first race to generate energy, by converting runner’s footsteps into electricity.
Unlike solar cells that work with sunlight, or wind turbines that require a gust of air to generate electricity, Pavegen’s renewable energy source is a bit more regular, and predictable: footsteps. Invented by the CEO of the London-based company, Laurence Kemball-Cook, Pavegen’s tiles make use of piezoelectric materials to convert kinetic energy into electricity. When a force is applied to such a material, such as through a runner’s footstep, it develops an electric charge; hook it up to a battery and this electricity can be stored, or utilized directly to power up nearby lighting or advertisement boards.
The tiles are almost completely comprised of recycled materials, with the rubber surface made from old truck tires. Being waterproof and incredibly durable, they are also suited to both indoor and outdoor environments. Every step generates 8 watts of power, with 5% of that used for an LED lamp at the centre of the tile to encourage interaction.
Place a scoreboard at the end of a length of tiles and you can making things competitive!
The Paris Marathon was an excellent showcase for the technology, with 25 meters of the course fitted with the tiles. The race sponsor, Schneider Electric, predicted that 7 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy would be generated over the course of the race; just to put that figure into perspective, the average household consumption in the UK is around 10 kWh of electricity. If the target was met, Schneider promised to donate 10,000 Euros to charity; however the final figure has yet to be announced.
As is the case with most renewable energy technologies, the potential of Pavegen’s tiles can hence only be realized in large volumes, and if located in optimal locations. Think areas of high urban foot-fall, such as shopping malls, train and subway stations, or perhaps even children’s playgrounds. Another issue is expense; although their exact cost has not been revealed, Pavegen aims to get the cost down to 50 British Pounds per tile. Hopefully that will mean more widespread application of this exciting new technology.