The Kinetic Energy of Your Feet

In the first installation of its kind in the United States, a Washington, D.C., sidewalk is now being used to generate electricity.

The city has replaced three sections of traditional concrete sidewalk slabs with smart technology pavement built of recycled polymer and truck tires, created by PaveGen. The surface has a slightly squishy feel to it, and as that top surface compresses with a person's steps, electric-magnetic induction generators located below the tiles are displaced. This resulting energy is stored in batteries, which can be used to generate electricity. Kinetic energy, or the energy of motion, is transformed into potential energy, which can be stored for later purposes.

Each step on the PaveGen sidewalk produces up to five watts of power, which translates to 30 seconds of light from a low-wattage LED. PaveGen hopes to eventually make its sidewalk tiles more widely available and as affordable as traditional sidewalk materials.

Located adjacent to Dupont Circle, an urban traffic circle containing one of Washington's busiest parks, the Connecticut Avenue Overlook park is a small sliver of space that had previously gone mostly unused. With the installation of the PaveGen system, Washington also added plants, bike parking, and seating. The energy from the sidewalk is being used to power accent lighting near the seating areas.

PaveGen has installed its green technology flooring in a variety of places around the world, including subway stations, schools, offices, shopping malls, airports, and other public spaces in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Brazil, France, South Africa, and Australia. The Washington, D.C., site is the first outdoor installation in the United States.

To learn more, visit our Science of Energy collection. Students can explore the interactives Power Up! and Power Play to learn about harnessing energy from different sources and the various costs associated with energy resources. Learn more about Transforming Energy in this lesson that investigates how electrical energy can be produced from a variety of energy sources and then transformed to almost any other form of energy. In Converting Energy, students study energy through the idea of energy transformations and conversions. In Renewable Energy Sources, students use Internet resources to investigate renewable sources of energy.

Photos courtesy of Kirstin Fearnley. All rights reserved.



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