The Future of Flooring?

Pavegen, a British clean-tech company, is taking an innovative approach to sustainability by generating energy from something that most people do every day: walk.

The technology is basically a multifunctional, custom flooring system that is outfitted with a wireless transmitter, which allows the data from the tiles to be captured, and generators that harness kinetic energy as people walk. That sounds complicated, but the way that it works is simple: As people walk over the flooring, the pressure causes generators in the flooring to vertically displace. This creates kinetic energy through electro-magnetic induction, and that energy can then be used to power lighting or whatever else is needed.

In short, the company is converting the kinetic energy from your footsteps into electricity.

In an interview with Futurism, Pavegen CEO Laurence Kemball-Cook noted that this is a new area of energy production, one which comes with a lot of exciting possibilities. "When a person walks, they generate 5 watts of energy continuously, so you are, we all are, a 5-watt power-feed. Now imagine 10 people," he continued, "that’s 50 watts of energy continuously." That may not seem like an exorbitant amount of energy, but it is enough to supply power for a number of needs. For example, the technology can be used to illuminate paths as pedestrians walk upon them, which could potentially curb crime.

And it does more than just supply light as someone walks across the tiles. "You can store the energy from people," Kemball-Cook noted. "Let’s say you have 40,000 people an hour passing through Grand Central Station, that energy is stored in batteries, and at night time, the power comes on. So municipalities, train stations, offices, schools—anywhere with lots of people walking — that's perfect for us."

The tech can also be used to supply power to radios and a number of other devices.

The flooring system's design, which currently features a triangular shape, is meant to easily integrate into public spaces, as well as maximize energy capture and output. The latest iteration of the technology is said to be more efficient, durable, and 200 times more powerful than the initial version, which was created in 2009 and featured a square design.

Walking In LA, or New York, or...

As previously noted, in terms of application, the V3 system is particularly well suited to urban areas that have high foot traffic, and as cities evolve to become greener and smarter, it should prove especially appealing to those seeking out more sustainable energy options—and Kemball-Cook says that's really what Pavegen is all about.

Sustainability is more than just nuclear power. It’s actually about changing the way people behave and how they think. People in New York have a decision to make every day: do they get a cab, do they ride on the subway, do they take a bus? They have that decision. What we buy and how we use our energy, these are all decisions that we need society to start thinking about part of what we want to do is connect communities together and make people feel energy. When a child jumps on a Pavegen tile, their face lights up, because they actually see what they’ve done—they see the energy they’re creating.

So we’re trying to change the way that people are thinking about sustainability, because in 20 years time, even if we have totally clean energy powering the city, if people don’t care, they’ll still litter in the streets…they still won’t look after the environment they live in.

Kemball-Cook continues by asserting that this human energy could one day be as beneficial as other popular clean energy sources, though that will admittedly take time: "What we are trying to do is kind of what solar did over the last 70 years. Pavegen is really pioneering the area of kinetic energy. There’s no rule book here."

And it seems that this human energy may be taking off.

Already confirmed for an installation in Westfield, the largest shopping center in Europe, Pavegen is now expanding to the US, which they hope will bring more focus to the importance of renewable energy. And earlier this month, Pavegen and Tribal Planet launched the very first sustainable "red carpet" in San Francisco.

Kemball-Cook states that, ultimately, these developments are the culmination of years of work.

"I’ve put the last 5 or 6 years of my life into making it real, and now it’s finally getting great traction. It’s being installed just a walking distance from the White House in DuPont Circle. It’s going to be installed on the busiest shopping streets in London, near the Oxford Street. It’s also going to be installed in the busiest retail site in London called Westfeld shopping center, which has 45 million people a year walking on it. Suddenly, all our hard work, and our new product, is all coming to life."

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