Could footsteps ever power Olympics?
Published: 2nd Jun 2012 00:08:59
Imagine if the energy you used walking down the street could be harnessed and turned into electricity.
It sounds like science fiction but it is a reality for youngsters at a school in Canterbury, Kent, where they are trialling a system of flexible paving slabs that collect kinetic energy from each child's footsteps.
This is then turned into an electrical charge used to light up a bulb.
The installation of just four tiles at the Simon Langton Grammar School shows the potential of the technology.
Head teacher Ken Moffat says: "We've got 1,100 students in the school and you can imagine 1,100 young men running around the place.
"That's about as robust as you get. If you could put something like this in a London Underground station, that would be very exciting."
On that scale, it is easy to see the potential.
And with more corporations and public bodies needing to meet green emissions targets, the tiles - made by Pavegen - could play an important part of the sustainable energy mix.
The company's founder and chief executive Laurence Kemball-Cook explains: "When you stand on a tile it flexes just 5mm in the centre, which is actually imperceptible to users.
"Through our technology we convert that into electrical power and seven watts per footstep is created. The heavier you are, the more energy is created."
And Mr Kemball-Cook's plans are a lot bigger in scale than just schools.
"One of the key sites we're working on is at Westfield, Stratford City," he says.
"This is in the largest urban shopping centre in Europe, right on the edge of the Olympic Park and where we're going to be seeing 14 million people walking through this area over the Olympics.
"Now with that amount of footfall we're actually going to be able to power a large portion of the outdoor lighting within the shopping centre itself."
The tiles work by using an electromagnetic system which creates a current by moving a magnet inside a coil. The energy is then stored in a battery within the paving slab.
It is a process that has been widely used in self-winding wristwatches for many years.
Energy harvesting, as it is commonly known, is sparking the imagination of inventors across the globe.
A number of different methods can be used to generate power - some systems collect heat while others rely on piezoelectric crystals, which generate a small voltage when put under pressure.
But they all have limitations.
Professor Markys Cain, science area leader at the UK National Physical Laboratory specialising in scientific measurement, said the current technology was not able to deliver the watts of power that were needed.
"It's delivering milliwatts - 1,000 times less than is required," he says.
"I think a really good example of how energy harvesting can be used in the consumer environment is to extend the life of batteries so your mobile phone will last three days between charges rather than one, for example."
To put the limitations in perspective - the average person will walk 150 million steps in their lifetime.
In theory, using the Pavegen slabs, that would only be enough to power the average family home for three weeks.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Could footsteps ever power Olympics? [Online] (Updated 2nd Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1432419/Could-footsteps-ever-power-Olympics [Accessed 1st Sep 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com