Sustainability Through Technology Part 3 - Kinetic to Electric

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Stepping Up - Taking Energy Conservation in Our Own Hands (Feet?)

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Think about all the energy humans expend every day: Pushing open a door. Typing on a keyboard. Exercising in the gym. And something all Penn Staters do everyday - walking. What if we could harness the power of walking to light the lamp we walk under? Or light the classroom we're going to? Turns out, we can. 

Now I'm not talking about walking on a treadmill and powering the world like guinea pigs. There is a company called Pavegen that is making pavement slabs from recycled rubber. These slabs, when stepped on, compress approximately five millimeters and then collect kinetic energy from the step. The energy is immediately transferred to nearby sources or stored in a battery. This system allows electricity to be created and used off a grid.

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One step creates enough energy to light up an LED street light for 30 seconds. In addition, once stepped on, the slabs light up with a built-in LED light, which uses only 5% of the energy gained. This interaction shows the user that they have contributed to electricity around them. Imagine these slabs in high-traffic places, such as train stations and tourist attractions. Put them in Disney World. Put them in Times Square. Heck, even put some at the HUB! Hundreds of thousands of people and millions of steps a day. 

But again is the curse of innovation. Now you may be wondering why these slabs are not everywhere. It is the usual reason - money. Currently, the slabs are costly to produce and not yet in mass production. Even though the slabs would save money in the long run, investors are reluctant to spend their money on products that are so innovative and could only sell to a niche market. 

Personally, I think that this genius idea should be in the headlines. Being green is a trend. Being lazy is a reality. With these slabs, people could feel as if they were making a difference (and they would be!) just by doing something they already do. I can just imagine little kids jumping from slab to slab, watching them light up at recess. What about competitions to see who could light the most slabs in a given amount of time?

The best part about this technology is that it is here, right now. There are slabs in the Westfield Stratford Mall in London that are fully functioning. Hopefully, as the technology improves and word spreads, more corporations and businesses will see ideas like this as progressive and worthwhile.

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To a lot of people, being environmentally friendly is a chore. A lot of people are unwilling to take a small detour and recycle a bottle, or to bend over and pick up someone else's trash. A lot of people think that to reduce their carbon footprint, they have to resort to more primitive ways, such as riding a bike or walking places. But it is important to realize that someone can be both technologically innovative as well as ecological.

We continually see, though, that money is always at the forefront of the issue. Nobody wants to invest in something that might fail to sell, that hasn't captured a lot of popular attention. But the potential of technological innovations, especially the environmental benefits, are crucial to sustaining life, both that of humans and the earth.

The important part for us, as students, bloggers, and internet-users is to spread the word. The first step is to make people aware of new ecological technology. As more people become familiar with the innovations, and get more excited about new technologies, they will be inspired with more eco-friendly ideas. A clean future can be a reality if we nourish and support it, and if we all do our part.

Part 1 - Magnetic Levitation

Part 2 - 3D Printing

For additional reading: 

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