Monday, June 09, 2008

Soylent Green Is People! You As An Energy Source

soylent_green The old folks who power jog around the mall before it opens are a pretty focused bunch and probably wouldn’t even notice if Charlton Heston charged through to inform them that they, they are being used as an energy source. But some clever British engineers have found a way to convert walking into at least enough energy to keep the lights going.

Underfloor generators, powered by “heel strike” and designed by British engineers, may soon be installed in supermarkets and railway stations.

The technology could use the footsteps of pedestrians to power thousands of lightbulbs at shopping centres. It works by using the pressure of feet on the floor to compress pads underneath, driving fluid through mini-turbines that then generate electricity, which is stored in a battery.

Although the technology is all in place, you knew there had to be a catch:

The underfloor generators could in theory be used in any place where there are large numbers of pedestrians, although the expense of the technology at its current stage of development means that it is unlikely to become widespread for several years.

And we suppose the amount of people power necessary to keep, say, a town going would lead to some mighty powerful calves at the annual sack race. Still, the ingenuity of this effort shouldn’t be slighted nor its potential in logical venues undervalued – it could very well find a place at the renewable energy table.

Photograph from Soylent Green. If I remember rightly, the photo depicts the future world’s way of dealing with riots caused by overpopulation – the early seventies version of global warming, if you want to look at it that way – not how people got to be Soylent Green. That happened at the euthanasia parlors, where fine actors like Edward G. Robinson go to die a peaceful, state-assisted death and then get mulched into food. No one’s idea of a sci-fi classic.

I suppose a better sci-fi equivalent is The Matrix, where people are used as an energy source for the machine world, albeit without mobility.


Anonymous said...

If a pedestrian expends extra energy to operate these floor generators, couldn't they sue the store owners for taking their energy without asking permission?

David Walters said...

Hey! Was too a CLASSIC!!! Soylent Green was a great movie and is a huge cult hit. "not a classic". Geezzz...

David Walters

Anonymous said...

This must be a joke.

Working hard, a typical human can produce about 200 W on a continuous basis. Walking in a shopping mall, no one will be willing to put out even a modest fraction of this (e.g., walking through quicksand).

If one wants to spent a lot of effort to harvest a very dilute energy source, build windmills.