Sustainability, Right At Our Feet…
Ever heard of piezoelectricity? Don’t worry, neither has the majority of society. Soon however, it might be making green news all over the place. This so-called “charge that gathers in solid materials in response to strain” (like crystal and ceramic) has attracted the attention of the science and the business world alike. And this isn’t any sort of ‘negative’ strain per se; the strain refers to pressure that initiates a charge inside certain materials- like the pressure from walking on a sidewalk, for example. Or…dancing.
It all started in ‘da club’ in the Netherlands when the first sustainable dance club was founded, showcasing a dance floor equipped with piezoelectric materials. The electricity collected from rowdy club-goers was used to charge the surface color of the floor itself. Others have since followed suit, from a railway station in Tokyo that used the same type of energy collection to charge the whole fleet of ticket gates and displays, to a British supermarket that installed kinetic road plates to collect energy from shoppers driving over parking lot speed bumps. London even has plans to put “power-generating tiles” on the streets to supply electricity for bus stops and pedestrian crossings. The potential is huge- a company in Israel even plans to install similar strips of asphalt in their highways that would power nearly 2,500 homes.
While piezoelectric roads, sidewalks, and dance floors are not prevalent forms of energy generation quite yet, they are constantly growing- and the technology continues to get better. At some point, we may even be able to harness energy from normal things in our everyday lives, like utilizing the minuscule vibrations in our shirts and shoes to charge our phones and computers using PZT (an amazingly efficient material able to covert up to 80% of mechanical energy into electricity). Crazy, isn’t it?
Whether or not we see this innovative technology implemented on a larger scale in the near future, it goes to show that there are plenty of creative ways to produce electricity (or anything for that matter) using a sustainable approach. And some of them might start right at our feet. Literally.
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