Paving slabs that convert energy from people’s footsteps into electricity are set to help power Europe’s largest urban mall, at the 2012 London Olympics site.
The recycled rubber “PaveGen” paving slabs harvest kinetic energy from the impact of people stepping on them and instantly deliver tiny bursts of electricity to nearby appliances. The slabs can also store energy for up to three days in an on-board battery, according to its creator.
In their first commercial application, 20 tiles will be scattered along the central crossing between London’s Olympic stadium and the recently opened Westfield Stratford City mall — which expects an estimated 30 million customers in its first year.
"That should be enough feet to power about half its (the mall’s) outdoor lighting needs," said Laurence Kemball-Cook, a 25-year-old engineering graduate who developed the prototype during his final year of university in 2009.
The green slabs are designed to compress five millimeters when someone steps on them, but PaveGen will not share the precise mechanism responsible for converting absorbed kinetic energy into electricity.
Although each step produces only enough electricity to keep an LED-powered street lamp lit for 30 seconds, Kemball-Cook says that the tiles are a real-world “crowdsourcing” application, harnessing small contributions from a large number of individuals.
"We recently came back from a big outdoor festival where we got over 250,000 footsteps — that was enough to charge 10,000 mobile phones," said Kemball-Cook.