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Start-up invents energy production by footsteps

Global Goals & Global Society
Start-up invents energy production by footsteps

Those who weight a lot have an advantage here: the London-based start-up "Pavegen" has developed a floor that converts the weight of our steps into electricity. The floor could be used particularly well where many people walk: In train stations or on football pitches.

Two men in green T-shirts lay kinetics panels on a football pitch in Rio de Janeiro

Kinetic panels, which can generate seven watts of electricity when players walk across them.

"The idea of Pavegen is to have a floor that converts the weight of your steps into electricity. Every time you step on this floor, your weight is converted into electricity. You just have to walk on it and every step brings us energy."Laurence Kemball-Cook walks around on some black hard rubber tiles in the rather nondescript Pavegen office near London's Kings Cross station. No sooner has he taken his first step than a floor lamp starts to glow. Pressure on the floor tile causes an electromagnetic coil to rotate, which then generates electricity. The number of steps, the body weight and the force of the step are decisive."The more weight that hits the tile, the more electricity we get. When you jump, it acts like four times your body weight - so more weight and therefore more electricity. Funnily enough, that's why our installations in America are a bit more efficient than those in Europe."

Being charitable by walking

Not because Americans jump on them, but because they are bigger on average. Pavegen floors are now in 200 places around the world - Laurence says there is interest for another 1,000 installations around the globe. In Berlin, the company has just launched a project with Google. Pavegen is also available as an app that counts steps - for each step, Pavegen donates a small amount to a charity that the app user chooses."In Brazil, we installed the Pavegen floor on a football pitch in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. The football players running around generate electricity, which is stored in batteries that then provide the floodlights on the pitch in the evening."

As expensive as very high-end office flooring

Owner Laurence Kemball-Cook is now 30 years old, used to work for the British subsidiary of electricity company “e.on“, where he took care of solar projects and started his own business with his tile idea in 2009. 2,000 investors are now behind the Pavegen project. The London-based start-up has a research lab in Cambridge and is now working worldwide with large companies such as Mitsubishi, Nike and BASF. The common goal: to make the technology cheaper and profitable.

"Our tiles now cost as much as a very high-end floor like you would find in luxury offices. Our plan is to bring the price down to the level of a very normal office floor."

Entire station lighting through tiles?

Pavegen, of course, works particularly well where a lot of people walk: "If you imagine a normal German train station, in the heart of Berlin for example, with maybe 15,000 people walking through per hour, they can power the entire station lighting."

Laurence Kemball-Cook has also just presented the technology at the climate meeting in German city Bonn.

The Pavegen founder is aware that his idea alone will not save the world. It can only be a building block, or rather a tile, on the way to climate-friendly energy production.

"Pavegen works well to take certain parts of a city off the grid. For lighting, for example, or providing wi-fi. But of course Pavegen can't power entire cities, for that we need the combination with other renewable technologies. Pavegen alone will not stop climate change."

Generating electricity through human power is a good approach to sustainable energy. However, as the start-up's CEO says, the energy generated is not enough to light up entire cities. It requires a global society to come together with alternative ideas of sustainable power sources.

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