Electricity is originating underneath your feet!!!
It could have been sounded like a utopian idea to imagine generating electricity from the footsteps. Few years before this was just like a utopian idea, but now it is a reality. We are familiar with the solar panels which are added on the sidewalks and the streets creating renewable energy. Now it’s time to produce some renewable energy just with the use of simple footsteps of the pedestrians walking along the footpaths.
Solar panels will not always be a reliable source of renewable energy. One company has now discovered on how to generate electric power with traffic on the footpath. With the ever-evolving and fantastic technology, it has now begun to entire power buildings with the footsteps of people walking along the street. Scientists have developed a paper-thin generator which can harvest the mechanical energy of the treads.
What?? A Virus makes electricity??
According to an international team, these living generators make use of viruses to convert the soles of one’s shoes into electricity. The generators were able to create enough power only to run a small LCD panel about a quarter of the power of an AAA battery. But the world is now near, where, that power could be used for everything from portable electronics like a phone that could be powered by footsteps to lighting systems powered by similar panels inside the doors.
The viruses which can convert the mechanical energy to electricity are harmless. They are just built to harness the physical stress in an object to generate electricity. This work is done by the scientists of US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They even tested the approach by creating a generator that can produce enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It works by taping a finger on a little postage stamp-sized electrode that is coated with specially engineered viruses.
These viruses can convert the force of the tap into an electric charge. This property of the biological material is known as the piezoelectrical properties, and that electricity is known as the piezoelectricity.
Even better electricity from the wood pulp waste!!
But now researchers have developed even novel, an inexpensive and straightforward method that can convert footsteps into usable electricity. This method was developed by the researchers in the US, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that make use of the conventional waste material, wood pulp which is used as a standard flooring component. The pulp that is partly made of cellulose nanofibres produces an electrical charge when they are chemically treated and then made to come in contact with the untreated nanofibres.
In this technology, these nanofibres that are embedded within the flooring can produce electricity and can be harnessed to power the lights or to charge the batteries. As the wood pulp is cheap, abundant and a renewable waste that can be obtained from several industries, incorporating these into the flooring could be much more affordable when compared to the existing similar materials for harnessing footstep energy. These alternative materials which are currently used to leverage the mechanical energy to convert into electricity are very costly, non-recyclable and moreover impractical at a large scale.
The present research revolved around the effective usage of vibration to generate electricity. Xudong Wang, an associate professor of Material Science and Engineering at UW Madison is the brain behind this. For so many years, he has been continually testing with different materials to maximize the merits of the triboelectric generator which has the same phenomenon that produces static electricity on clothing.
Wang hypotheses that massive traffic floors in the hallways, and places like stadiums and malls, where this technology can be incorporated, can produce a significant amount of energy. Each functional portion of those flooring will be having two differently charged materials including the cellulose nanofibres which would be a millimeter or less in thickness. Such floors can allocate several layers of the functional unit for the production of higher energy.
Wang has an estimation of these materials, like when we put these two materials including the cellulose nanofibres together, the electrons will move from one to the other based on their electron affinity. This electron transfer can create a charge imbalance that naturally tends to correct by itself, but soon the electron starts to return, they get passed through an external circuit which ends up in creating triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG). Wang claims that this TENG technology can be incorporated easily into all kinds of flooring when it gets ready for the market.
Pavegen Floor Tile and the Electricity production.
This idea was as a result of a brainwave happened to Mr. Laurence Kemball-Cook, a graduate of Loughborough University when he realized the potentiality of the power underneath our feet to produce electric power. His idea of making a floor tile that can convert the kinetic energy from a footstep into electricity helped to generate seven watts of powers, whenever someone steps on the tile. This energy, stored in the batteries are used to power lighting whenever needed and considered to be an off-grid power source for the cities.
He had also set up a company, Pavegen, for the production of this floor tile in 2009, but it took several more years to develop and convince the technology to the fellow people. During the world cup held in Rio, a whole football pitch was laid with this tiles which were hooked with the spotlights, helped them up to continue the play after dark. Kemball-Cook claims that apart from light, this floor tile sensors can produce more powerful potential applications. He says that it will take a lot of time and investment to make the product at the same cost as the regular flooring.
But if it happens, it will be a revolutionary movement which will eradicate the shortage of electricity and can help the remote villages who are still in the dark, to lit their houses with the help of the footstep electricity produced from the crowded cities.