This years Boston Marathon was the site of a terrible tragedy, as runners reaching the finish line were met with the worst terrorist attack on American soil since September 11th took place. Not only was this gruesome attack an injustice of immense proportions, it also overshadowed an important story that took place overseas, one which also involved a marathon and a potential breakthrough for renewable energy.
Here, the runners and spectators who waited at the finish line were also privy to something unexpected. But in this case, it involved a series of rubber panels which turned the runners steps into actual electricity. Known as Pavegen, a material invented by 27 year-old Laurence Kemball Cook and composed of recycled tires, this demonstration was the largest test to date of the experimental technology. And though the results were modest, they do present a frightening amount of potential for clean, renewable energy.
Essentially, a single step on a Pavegen pad is said to generate up to 8 watts of electricity per second. Based on that, and at a speed of one step a second, it would take a single pedestrian 40 minutes to charge a smartphone. However, a small army of pedestrians could generate considerably more – say for example, 50,000+ people taking part in a marathon.
Here too, the results fell short of their intended goal. Schneider Electric – who commissioned the project – held a contest on Facebook and said if they generated over 7 kilowatt-hours of energy, they would make a donation to Habitat for Humanity. As it turned out, all those runners generated more like two-thirds of that: 4.7 kilowatt-hours. Still, the potential is there.
Already the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Kent, England, has contracted with Pavegen to become the site of the first permanent installation of the material. And as the video below demonstrates, it has the ability to at least generate enough power to keep the lights on in a building where hundreds of people take thousands of steps daily.
Given time and some improvement in the yield of the pads, this technology could very well take its place alongside solar, wind, and other renewable sources of power that will bring electricity to the cities of the future. Imagine it if you will, entire sidewalks composed of electricity-generating material, turning every step its pedestrians take into clean energy. I for one think that’s the stuff of bona fide science fiction story (it’s mine, you can’t have it!).
And be sure to check out this promotional video from Pavegen who filmed their floor at work in Simon Langton: