Piezoelectric Flooring: Harvesting Energy Using Footsteps

The global electricity demand will grow by almost 80% during the period of 2012-2040 in the International Energy Agency’s New Policies Scenario. Furthermore, the share of renewable sources in total power generation will rise from 21% recorded in 2012 to 33% by 2040 (source: International Energy Agency). The rapidly-increasing share and importance of renewables in power generation sector has led to developments of several sustainable technologies.

One such clean energy technology is piezoelectric flooring.

What is Piezoelectric Flooring and How does it Work?
The demand for energy harvesting technologies is growing as we continue to seek out greener and more efficient solutions. Like a wind generator or solar cells, piezoelectricity is also a type of technology used for energy harvesting.

Piezoelectricity is electrical energy harvested from mechanical pressure such as walking motion. When pressure is applied on an object, a negative charge is created on the expanded side and a positive charge is created on the compressed side. As this pressure is relieved, electric current flows across the substance.

Piezoelectric Floor Tiles
Piezoelectric floors are designed to capture the wasted energy and resources, and store or redistribute them where they are needed. Energy is generated when a person steps on tiles that feature piezoelectric attributes. The amount of energy generated depends upon the weight of the person, maximum deflection, and type of movement. This kinetic energy is converted into electricity.

Companies Making Sustainable Piezoelectric Floor Tiles
Although this concept is relatively new, it has stirred a great degree of interest in the sustainable energy circles. Here are some of the manufacturers of these sustainable floors.

Smart Energy Floor (SEF) from Veranu
Veranu, an Italian company makes a floor called SEF that generates electricity through a person’s walking action. This product uses a piezoelectric plastic material. Veranu has proposed the creation of an invisible structure that is integrated into the floor. This structure will feature easy maintenance and will be eco-friendly in nature thanks to its recyclable components (source: veranu.eu).

Pavegen tile from Pavegen Systems
A Pavegen tile is expected to generate around 4 watts of energy with each step. Around 12 Pavegen tiles installed at the entrance to West Ham station generated enough energy in the day time to power the station lighting by night. Pavegen flooring has been installed in more than 30 countries (source: pavegen.com).

Sustainable Energy Floor from Energy Floors
This Netherlands-based firm provides the Sustainable Energy Floor, which converts footsteps into electricity. When a person steps on the tiles that constitute this floor, the former flexes by approximately 10 mm, an action which is then converted into around 15 to 25 watts-peak. According to engineering.com, the generator used in this innovation is not piezoelectric in nature.

Application of Piezoelectric Floors
Piezoelectric flooring is ideal for places that receive heavy foot traffic. It can be installed at tourist attractions, town halls, schools, stadiums, or dance floors. In fact, the firm Energy Floors has a product called the Sustainable Dance Floor especially designed for clubs. Piezoelectric flooring can also be installed in other busy places such as subway stations, airports, universities, and malls.

Given that the technology of using floor tiles to generate electricity using mechanical pressure is relatively new, companies in this sector are still looking for venture capitalists and investors. It would also be interesting to see if automotive companies develop an interest in this technology to harvest electricity from the movement of cars and other vehicles.

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