Footsteps power 1,000 LED bulbs (VIDEO)

Researchers are making significant advances in the quest to harvest energy from the most pedestrian of places—a person walking. A Georgia Tech team has reported that a single square meter of their new flat generator can produce as much as 300 watts of electricity when stepped on.

Footsteps Power 1,000 LED Bulbs

“We are able to deliver small amounts of portable power for today’s mobile and sensor applications,” Georgia Tech materials science and engineering professor Zhong Lin Wang said in a statement. “This opens up a source of energy by harvesting power from activities of all kinds.”

Wang’s advance harnesses the triboelectric effect, a type of electric charging caused by rubbing together two types of materials with different charges. The phenomenon is familiar to anyone who has gotten a shock by touching metal after walking across a carpeted floor.

But his team has been able to improve their early generator model to increase its power output density by a factor of 100,000, Wang says. The innovation means they can make generators as shoe inserts, foot pedals, floor mats, backpacks, laptop touchpads and for other applications. They also say they can boost power output by stacking multiple layers of inexpensive materials like polymer films, fabrics and paper.

“The fact that an electric charge can be produced through triboelectrification is well known,” Wang says. “What we have introduced is a gap separation technique that produces a voltage drop, which leads to a current flow in the external load, allowing the charge to be used. This generator can convert random mechanical energy from our environment into electric energy.”

Will shoppers one day power the mall they explore? Might sports fans be the generator of their stadium’s electricity? … (READ MORE or WATCH THE VIDEO)