Monday, 7 August 2017

Finding new ways to power the world - kinetic energy

Potential power sources rushing to work (via Flickr, by Scott Robinson)

An energy we rarely think about is the kinetic energy we release while moving around. This energy, and its potential for electricity production has been noticed by scientists and engineers. They have devised, and are already beginning to implement intriguing new methods of harvesting the energy of human movement. Walking, jumping and dancing are all starting to contribute to clean energy.

PowerWalk by Bionic Power in action (via Bionic Power)PowerWalk by Bionic Power in action (via Bionic Power)
The first kinetic harvester on this list is the PowerWalk from Bionic Power, a device that uses walking movement to recharge batteries. It fits onto the user's legs and adjusts its tension based on the speed of walking and the terrain. Additionally, this device "reduces muscle fatigue during downhill walking, easing metabolic effort and reducing potential for injury" (Bionic Power website). The PowerWalk is scheduled to begin military trials this year.

Partygoers lighting up the Sustainable Dance Floor (via Energy Floors) The empty floor still lit up (via Energy Floors)
But it's not all serious business, and innovative energy sources are great for days off too. That's exactly what the Sustainable Dance Floor by Energy Floors is all about. This floor is made up of individual tiles, each containing an electromechanical system that converts the pressure of the weight applied to it (the movement of dancing people) into electricity for LED lights. The Sustainable Dance Floor creates an interactive experience for clubgoers, and can be used for specific DJ-controlled  effects, such as an "energy battle" (electricity generating contest) in the audience.

A grid of Pavegen tiles (via Pavegen) A single Pavegen tile (via Pavegen)

Producing energy through movement doesn't have to be obvious or exceptional. In fact, a piezoelectric floor can blend into everyday life seamlessly. This has been proven time and again by Pavegen, a London-based company whose tiles inconspicuously harvest energy at over 150 sites worldwide. Much like the Sustainable Dance Floor, these tiles are activated when stepped on by a pedestrian, and collect energy (primarily) to contribute to LED lighting. Instead of illuminating a party, the Pavegen tiles often power streetlights, and even USB ports for charging mobile devices.

Pavegen tiles at Dupont Circle, Washington (via Pavegen)

While not yet widely used, kinetic energy from human movement presents amazing potential, and is already becoming an applicable alternative.

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