Engineers hope to harvest human energy

Scientists and engineers are looking to make use of human-powered energy. Don’t worry, they don’t want to hook you up to electrodes; the means of capturing the energy may be as unobtrusive as a matrix of pressure pads under sidewalks and floors. “When we walk along a pavement, eight watts of energy is wasted — absorbed by the ground — with each heel. Yet it’s possible to harvest at least 30 percent of that energy,” explains Claire Price, leader of the Pacesetters Project, which aims to install the world’s first human-energy-harvesting staircase in the U.K. next year. “[Human-powered energy] could power lighting, LED displays, and audio systems used in public spaces,” she adds. Price is also working with a manufacturer of gym equipment to develop a way to harvest energy from treadmills. Another way you may soon be able to make yourself useful: a shoe device that would capture walking energy and use it to power portable electronic devices, being explored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.