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If, like me, you watched any of NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics from London, then chances are good you saw at least one of the many commercials advertising the emphasis being placed on sustainability and reducing the environmental impacts of the Olympic Games.
While that information is noble to market, it does not detail the specific initiatives undertaken by the London Olympic Committee in achieving such claims.
I would like to call your attention to a new product focused on sustainability from a London based startup, which is being employed in the areas of East London abutting Olympic Stadium. If you happened to have been so lucky to attend the Olympics in person, you may have noticed some bright green rubber tiles adorning the outdoor walkways of Westfield Stratford City Mall, the largest urban mall in Europe.
At first glance, the tiles may have appeared to be little more than mere ornamentation, but the complex processes occurring within the tiles lend themselves to being one of the most exciting sustainable initiatives being employed in London this summer.
The 17.7-by-23.6-inch (45-by-60-centimeter) bright green rubber tiles are produced by Pavegen Systems, which was launched in 2009 by Laurence Kemball-Cook, a 26-year-old Londoner who developed the product while earning a degree in industrial engineering and technology at Loughborough University.
Designed to be used wherever pedestrians congregate en masse (i.e. transportation hubs such as train, subway, and bus stations; airports; schools; malls; bustling shopping avenues), the tiles collect the kinetic energy created by footfalls to be used for the operation of a range of low-power applications, including lighting, signs, digital ads, and Wi-Fi Zones.
In the case of the London Olympics, the estimated 40 million pedestrians who will use the outdoor walkways at the Westfield Stratford City Mall will generate several hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity from their foot falls, enough to power half of the mall’s outdoor lighting.
Pavegen’s paving tiles have also been employed in schools (the Simon Langdon Grammar School for Boys near Canterbury), offices, and at music concerts.
According to National Geographic, “once a Pavegen tile converts energy to electricity, 5 percent of it is used to light the round LED-lighted logo in the center of each tile. The other 95 percent is either directly fed to the application or stored in a battery for later use.
Pavegen is also working on a new system that will feed the power directly into a grid… Each step pushes the rubber down a mere 5 millimeters, or a fraction of an inch… [which] creates about 7 watts of electricity.” The difference in the feel of the tiles for the user is said to be basically imperceptible.
In addition to creating renewable, sustainable energy, Pavegen’s tiles are produced in a renewable, sustainable manner themselves.
Specifically designed to have a minimal carbon footprint, all of the rubber used in the creation of the tiles is derived from recycled truck tires, and approximately “80 percent of the polymers used for the other components can be recycled.”
Capable of enduring rain, snow, and ice, the rubber tiles are completely waterproof, which would ideally survive about 20 years with mechanical testing to destruction indicating a lifespan of at least 5 years.
Kemball-Cook, Pavegen’s Founder, has stated that the tiles utilize a hybrid technology, but will not disclose whether they rely on piezoelectricity (generated when certain crystals, such as quartz, topaz, and cane sugar, are squeezed or otherwise put under stress) as he still considers his technology to be proprietary information.
Kemball-Cook has further been quoted as saying Pavegen’s tiles are 200 times more efficient at producing power than any rival product, although this claim cannot be verified.
Like a lot of green technologies, early models were not cheap, but the price has dropped 70 percent over the past year and is still rapidly changing. Kemball-Cook is convinced he can get the price down to $50 per tile.
While the use of the tiles during the Olympics is truly exciting, higher profile uses of the Pavegen product are close at hand.
“Pavegen has partnered with Siemens, the German technology company, to install five tiles in Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, to power lighting there. And large, sponsored installations are planned for a major London train station and an Athens shopping mall this summer.
Interest in the technology is also growing in the United States. Several American schools are planning to install Pavegen tiles, and Kemball-Cook says federal government agencies have expressed an interest in the technology as well.
Furthermore, “there’s no reason why the tiles couldn’t power an entire music festival, heavy-duty amps and all.
Ultimately, Kemball-Cook wants to see thousands of Pavegen tiles permanently embedded in urban areas world wide, turning cities into power plants.” I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to watch how this company can change the future of urban development.
To learn more about today’s Greenovation visit Pavegen.com.
by Rob Stanfield – The Green Register