Skip to main content

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.

Comments

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.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…