Power Walking with Energy Floors
Tom Lombardo posted on June 19, 2013 |

Power walking isn’t just a health craze - it could produce electrifying results!


Energy Floors, a Netherlands-based company, wants to be a player in the sustainable energy market. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk … literally. Their products, the Sustainable Energy Floor and Sustainable Dance Floor, convert footsteps into electricity. As a person steps on an Energy Floor tile, the tile flexes about 10 mm. That movement is converted into electricity -  15 Watts on average, and up to 25 Watts peak. The tiles are modular; connect 40 tiles together and the network can generate up to 1 kW. They wouldn’t give me details on the generator, except to say that it’s not piezoelectric. Based on the diagram below, it looks like a rack-and-pinion that drives a small permanent magnet generator.

In addition to the tiles, the system includes a controller module that directs the flow of electricity. The 12V output can light LEDs (as in the Sustainable Dance Floor or a lighted walkway), power an external low-voltage device, or charge a battery.

Blocks that light up when activated entice people to step on them. Put a few at each shopping mall and you have a playground that lets kids burn off their excess energy and turn it into electricity. Set them up in front of the stage at a Phish concert and you might generate enough electricity to power the amps during one of Trey Anastasio’s guitar solos. (Okay - maybe that one is a little ambitious.)

 

But it’s not just a high-tech toy. Energy Floors recently partnered with the Russian Railway Research Institute, which hopes to put Energy Floors on railroad platforms and high-traffic walkways. 

They’ll also investigate the use of this technology to harvest energy from the movement of cars and trains. Frankly, I think piezoelectric transducers might be better for those applications. They’re less efficient than electromagnetic generators, but they might be more durable under heavy vehicular traffic.


In keeping with the company’s sustainable focus, the floor tiles are made from recyclable materials. They have a 30 year expected lifetime. 


Laurence Kemball-Cook delivers a TED talk on this concept:


Sustainable energy is a multifaceted industry. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric are the big players, but small energy-harvesting products have their place as well. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Energy Floors could make that step more productive.

Images: Energy Floors
Video: TED


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