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"Crowd Farm" to Collect Energy?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the kriss-kross-to-make-comeback dept.

Power 357

Cain writes to mention that a couple of MIT students would like to harness the mechanical power of large groups of people. "A Crowd Farm in Boston's South Station railway terminal would work like this: A responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps would be installed beneath the station's main lobby. The slippage of the blocks against one another as people walked would generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current."

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357 comments

A better idea (3, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047563)

Why make it so hard? Just hook the dynamo up to the turnstiles instead.

Re:A better idea (5, Insightful)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047599)

Because you only go through the turnstiles once, but you take thousands of steps through the station.

Re:A better idea (5, Interesting)

reddburn (1109121) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048021)

Some company in denmark is working on dance clubs that would work in a similar fashion (lights and volume powered by the activity on the dance floor). They debuted a working prototype of the floor (10 meters square) at the Live Earth concert. I just heard about it, but it sounds similar: http://www.sustainabledanceclub.com/ [sustainabledanceclub.com]

house music all night long (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048083)

They need to run this thing in dance clubs. People dancing all night long; surely all that energy can be put to use. And why not gyms? Tap into "spinning" bicycles and treadmills directly.

Re:house music all night long (1)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048261)

It's been demonstrated that you spend more money hooking up a generator to an exercise bike than you'll generate in electricity over the lifetime of the bike. The dance club thing could probably work though.

Re:house music all night long (4, Informative)

dextromulous (627459) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048275)

And why not gyms? Tap into "spinning" bicycles and treadmills directly.
Because it is prohibitively expensive. [wsj.com]

If all the exercise machines were in use 10 hours a day for a year, the gym could generate roughly $183 worth of electricity. At that rate, it would take about 82 years to pay off the initial $15,000 investment.

Re:A better idea (0, Redundant)

Razor Sex (561796) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047605)

Because then you'd only get 2 units of energy from every person (on their way in and out). With sliding blocks, you get a unit every step.

Re:A better idea (2, Funny)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047635)

Just put the people into tanks and give them virtual lives ..... what's that, the Matrix was fiction?

Re:A better idea (1, Redundant)

kueball (248452) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047719)

Lets just "harvest" energy from everyone who works out in the gym. Seems to me that there are a lot of treadmills, stair climbers, etc. that could be modified for some type of benefit.

Re:A better idea (1)

EtoilePB (1087031) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047797)

Why make it so hard? Just hook the dynamo up to the turnstiles instead.

Because as subway and transit systems nationwide modernize, you have fewer actual turnstiles and more other kinds of gates. Turnstiles would work in New York probably, where they still actually turn, but imagine someplace like Washington DC, with those puny plastic flippy things...

A really high-use walking area is a more likely way to go.

Re:A better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047935)

Actually, you're right, and Boston's MBTA just went through a multi-million dollar renovation (and rate hike, of course!) to ditch turnstyles for the Washington DC style "puny plastic flippy things":

http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/?id=8704 [mbta.com]

Re:A better idea (4, Informative)

techiemikey (1126169) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048279)

Because Boston no longer has turnstiles for their subways. They have little "High tech"doors which open when you swipe a Charlie Ticket.

God Smack Your Ass !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047581)


God Smack Your Ass !!

The people power the city huh? (5, Funny)

Kranfer (620510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047583)

I love this! If they install something like this on the streets around me I am going to send the electric company a bill for my time to generate their power ... what am I a giant hamster to them?!

Re:The people power the city huh? (2, Insightful)

samoverton (253101) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047733)

Energy isn't free, I have to pay for the food that I eat in order to generate that energy that they are taking.

Re:The people power the city huh? (2, Interesting)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047741)

The electric company is already to obligated to pay for any excess power you would happen to generate. Add that fact on top of not having an electric bill and the waterwheel that I installed starts to look pretty nifty.

Re:The people power the city huh? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048063)

I love this! If they install something like this on the streets around me I am going to send the electric company a bill for my time to generate their power ... what am I a giant hamster to them?!

You could choose not to walk over the evil power generating floor if it upsets your delicate sensibilities. Besides, it's not like you're spending your time generating power -- you, and everyone else, are generating power incidental to what you were already doing. They're just collecting it.

Now, get back on your wheel, Hamster Boy, I've got an air conditioning that needs power. ;-)

Cheers

one problem left? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047601)

Now the only technical problem is getting americans out of their cars...

Re:one problem left? (2)

ZachMG (1122511) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047637)

or they could just go in with the oil companies and make the roads like this, win-win for everyone.

Re:one problem left? (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047727)

No. It would simply amke your car burn more gas than the energy they harvested. It would be like going up a small incline all the time. The laws of conservation still apply.

Re:one problem left? (2, Informative)

EtoilePB (1087031) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047831)

Now the only technical problem is getting americans out of their cars...

If you've ever been in Boston's South Station or New York's Grand Central or any of a dozen other major urban transit hubs at rush hour... there are plenty of people there not using cars.

I'd generate a lot of energy! (1)

saterdaies (842986) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047609)

Would they have implemented a way to collect the energy of me tripping and stumbling as well? It seems that I would make a lot more energy tripping over the small rises created than the depression itself.

Too bad I travel from North Station in Boston ;)~

i am inspired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047621)

Running straight home to apply this idea to the shock absorbers on my shaggin' wagon hippie van -- no more dead batteries for me!

Rock concerts (4, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047623)

Use the mosh pit to power the amps! the phrase "Behold the power of ROCK" has more meaning now

Re:Rock concerts (2, Interesting)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048079)

Well, that would make a rather nice positive (yet self-limiting) feedback loop. If the band sucks, the music stops (or at least gets quieter). You still need to get it going. Do you give the band a limited capacitive jumpstart to get the crowd going or do you wait until the crowd starts chanting and stomping their feet to get the show going?

I have an idea (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047663)

A Crowd Farm in Boston's South Station railway terminal would work like this: A responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps

I have a better idea. Why not make a system that generates energy under the force of collapsing Big Dig tunnel sections? [boston.com]

One possible drawback (3, Insightful)

omnilynx (961400) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047671)

This will probably make it slightly harder (and more tiring) to walk on those surfaces. The energy has to come from somewhere.

Re:One possible drawback (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047805)

That's what I'm thinking, too. It's like, hey! I have to eat food to make that energy... you can't "recover" it from me like that!

Re:One possible drawback (1)

Gregb05 (754217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048143)

Most people eat far too much food. It's not exactly a *bad* thing to make people work a bit harder walking.

Re:One possible drawback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047967)

To quote Jay Leno: "The energy comes from the FAT ASSES most Americans have!".
This would be a way for most (overweight for the most part) folks to burn up a little extra fat...sounds like a win-win!

Re:One possible drawback (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048217)

Like Jay Leno, I guess you've never had to commute to work. It's bad enough dragging your butt into the city every morning and back out at night. Adding a squishy floor that feels like walking through mush is gonna be worse than taking away red staplers, it'll drive people to shooting sprees.

Re:One possible drawback (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20048099)

That's a drawback? Seems like a benefit to me. The average weight of America could go down if people are forced to expend some extra energy.

a way to harness true limitless energy (5, Funny)

NavyNasa (18525) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047679)

3 to 4 year olds.
We could power a small coutry if we installed these in pre-schools.

Another source opf poswer (4, Funny)

link-error (143838) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047691)

Wow... hook one of those up to my keyboad.... Well, just my delete key would generate a few megawatts of power.

Re: Another source opf poswer (2, Funny)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047949)

Wow... hook one of those up to my keyboad.... Well, just my delete key would generate a few megawatts of power.

Looks like you're well on your way.

that's dumb (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047699)

So you are going to ask people who are pushing and shoving, exhausted at the end of the day, who only want to get home to walk on a floor that is going to pull energy out of their stride. Are ye freakin' nuts. Why not go full ahead and have escalators that fall backward as people walk up them running a generator -- same difference. More practically, how about turning off the escalators -- seems to me that would save not only energy cost but maintenance cost too.

Somehow, I see the heirs of a guy who dropped dead due to heart attack suing and winning more money than the earning/savings from harnessing crowd power. Moreover what about the class action suit representing the "crowd" to get their money out.

If the tiles sink... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047721)

...then won't it be more like walking in sand which, for me at least, is a great deal more tiring than firm terrain?

Re:If the tiles sink... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047931)

You had me at sandwich.

Don't stand for this! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047723)

Crowd farming is theft. Pure and simple.

By stealing my energy, the man gets to laugh all the way to the bank, while it is ALMOST detectably harder for me to walk. It is MY energy we are talking about here. I'm not just gong to let someone "farm" it off of of me.

I say Hell no!. This is where I put my foot down, and if by putting my foot down I generate useful energy, I expect to be PAID for it.

Visionary (4, Funny)

sakonofie (979872) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047737)

And while the farm is an urban vision, the dynamo-floor principle can also be applied to capturing energy at places like rock concerts, too. "Greater movement of people could make the music louder," suggests Jurcyzk.
Truly visionary. I can see it now. [dreamlike swirling effect] Concert Goer A - "I still can't hear the band" Concert Goer B - "Mosh Harder!" ... 70 minutes goes by ... Concert Goes A - "Oh god I can't feel my legs anymore. I need to take a break." Concert Goer B - "I paid 60 dollars for this ticket and drove 200 miles. You are going to mosh whether you like it or not!"

Good concept, bad venue... (1, Insightful)

RollTissue (896833) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047739)

The concept is good, but it would be better suited if it were tied to major highways or railways. If 28k human foot steps can only run a train for a second, then imagine the power produced by 10's of thousands of 3,000lb cars driving on them every day.

Re:Good concept, bad venue... (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047789)

Yeah, and then imagine how much power could be generated by burning every tree on the planet! Thermodynamics be damned, our worries are over!

Re:Good concept, bad venue... (1)

oyenstikker (536040) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047827)

Conservation of energy. First law of thermodynamics. Go back to school, do not collect 200 kilowatts.

Re:Good concept, bad venue... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047969)


Conservation of energy. First law of thermodynamics. Go back to school, do not collect 200 kilowatts.


What all you thermodynamics Nazis are missing is that the surface that would be replaced is not an ideal surface. If we could build a road with the same give as current roads, but instead of dissipating all the energy it absorbs as heat, it generated some electricity (and yes, dissipated some of the energy as heat, I'll give the thermodynamics Nazis that) then whatever electricity it generated would be "free" (actually, just not-thrown-away) energy.

For cars? (1)

gnuman99 (746007) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047893)

You mean like this?

http://www.google.com/patents?id=t6QRAAAAEBAJ&dq=6 756694 [google.com]

The problem is that this device causes all sorts of problems for vehicles like,

  1. increased rolling resistance (car drivers pay for the power generated)
  2. motorcycles anyone?
  3. increased tire wear

Humans are a better idea because all it does is cause slightly more exercise. For roads, I do not think this is such a good idea. Parking lots maybe, or drive thrus but not normal roads.

Wool carpets and fuzzy socks (4, Funny)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047745)

Why not just install wool carpets, make everyone take their shoes off and walk around in fuzzy socks. Then, they can touch special metal plates to donate their built-up static charge to the grid.

And for fun, they can make ramps without carpeting, for sliding down. Go back up, build up a charge, discharge and slide down again. I'd be on that all day!

Wouldn't this make it harder to walk? (0, Redundant)

Daverd (641119) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047749)

The energy has to come from somewhere.

Re:Wouldn't this make it harder to walk? (0, Redundant)

fr4nk (1077037) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047853)

Wouldn't this make it harder to walk?
Yes it does. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wouldn't this make it harder to walk? (4, Interesting)

trtmrt (638828) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048185)

A lot of comments on this in the thread. Energy is conserved but the question is where does the energy go when you walk on a normal surface. If you have a solid immovable floor the energy you impart onto the surface through friction gets dissipated as heat (slight bending of the material, compacting of the earth...). If you could "dissipate" this energy into electricity it might not be significantly harder to walk on such a surface. Also, if these are just piezos than you are basically just bouncing on what feels like slightly softer surface and I don't see that as a big problem. The practical issues however are a different story (maintenance, efficiency, cost/benefit).

Re:Wouldn't this make it harder to walk? (4, Insightful)

fullmetal55 (698310) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048259)

yes the energy has to come from somewhere, but wouldn't the plates act as a shock absorber, rather than the downward energy being absorbed by your shin, it's being depressed down. If anything, with the appropriate tension it'd almost make it easier/more comfortable to walk, similar to certain rubberized walking surfaces. less impact on your shins and knees. the energy that is being used already exists and is being wasted walking on concrete (being absorbed by the shin and knee). so the law of thermodynamics is maintained, it just converts wasted energy into useful energy.

Rats in a cage? (1)

HitekHobo (1132869) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047751)

Wouldn't we get a lot more energy out of crowds if we made them walk on hamster wheels instead? Or does my employer have a patent on that already?

School Science (2, Interesting)

Timberwolf0122 (872207) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047775)

Ages ago in a sceince lesson we were asked to analyse the idea of pulling rollers on the M25 motorway to capture the energy of vehicles that ran over them, well I sort of spotted the flaw in the plan being that the car would all get sucky MPG and polute more.

Now one decade later we have the same idea but with people, howmuch polution will that produce (though extra repiration)? also would not the capture of all the excess heat produced by said people to heat say water (save money on heating by getting the water from 10C to day 20->30C and reduce the strain on the A/C by lowering the Air temp+humidity) be better?

Re:School Science (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048071)

Ages ago in a sceince lesson we were asked to analyse the idea of pulling rollers on the M25 motorway to capture the energy of vehicles that ran over them, well I sort of spotted the flaw in the plan being that the car would all get sucky MPG and polute more.

1. Don't you mean KPG? Last I checked, the M25 was in Britain. :-P

2. The loophole in the problem is: Dampeners. Anywhere you install dampeners (e.g. bridges), you are already dissipating excess energy. Reconfiguring the dampening systems to rechannel the energy would be an effective way to "generate" power rather than losing it to heat and useless motive power.

This is similar in principle to the recovery systems present in many modern generators. The primary cycle may only capture ~40% of the available energy, but another 10-15% can still be recovered through alternative conversion methods.

Yet another example is regenerative braking. Rather than dissipating the excess energy as heat, a load is placed on the motors to recharge the battery.

Neither of these are *perfect* systems, but they do provide a method of putting otherwise wasted energy to good use.

Re:School Science (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20048183)

Don't *you* mean MPG? Last time *I* checked, British road signs were in Imperial, not Metric measurements......

Re:School Science (2, Insightful)

Lijemo (740145) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048189)

Don't worry, South Station has several fast-food restaurants that people can use to more than recoup the calories they involuntarily donated to the "crowd farm".

Two words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047777)

Soylent Green!!

obligatory pointless comment (0, Offtopic)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047785)

Im in ur sidewalkz stealing ur nrgz

Re:obligatory pointless comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047939)

i read that as the 'n' word.

but then i understood.

modified elevators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047799)

How about bungee like elevators for going down, instead of using up energy both ways?

Energy doesn't come for free (2, Insightful)

Metaphorically (841874) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047801)

How much energy does this thing recover?
FTA:

The electric current generated by the Crowd Farm could then be used for educational purposes, such as lighting up a sign about energy. "We want people to understand the direct relationship between their movement and the energy produced," says Juscyzk.


So let's collect energy so we can waste it?
I wonder what it feels like walking on this floor - there's got to be some difference since the energy I normally expend is only enough to hold me up. If there's no perpetual motion machine here then doesn't the energy ultimately come from my breakfast?

Re:Energy doesn't come for free (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047991)

If there's no perpetual motion machine here then doesn't the energy ultimately come from my breakfast?

Of course it does. That's the point.

I suspect the rationale is that it's using energy you'd already be expending -- if you're going to walk over the concourse, you're already applying that energy to the floor. Now they want to harvest all of the little bits as everyone walks through.

You're probably not going to use a measurable amount of more energy. It's definitely not perpetual motion.

Cheers

Ok, until someone sues (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047809)

Sorry the american attitude of someone elses fault is going to kill this as soon as someone slips and falls on the floor. They will see someone making money off of it and sue.

I will be suprised if it ever actually gets the insurance coverage to be realy deployed.

But what about the drunks? (1, Offtopic)

JoshDM (741866) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047817)

Wonder what'll happen when the urination threshhold exceeds the flooring capacity.

Re:But what about the drunks? (3, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047973)

Wonder what'll happen when the urination threshhold exceeds the flooring capacity.

Conduction, followed by screams of pain and barely-suppressed laughter.

ridiculous (1)

swell (195815) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047873)

Maintaining thousands of discreet components would be a nightmare.

Consider instead a piezoelectric source with almost no moving parts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piezoelectricity [wikipedia.org]

Re:ridiculous (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048013)

IIRC, there is a project in a Japanese terminal to do something similar to this using piezoelectric pads. The idea was to capture this miniscule amount of energy to power the train departure/arrival display boards. More of a novelty than something with serious practicality.

bigger fish to fry- what a stupid project (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047891)

The slippage of the blocks against one another as people walked would generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current.

Ever walked in sand? It's many, many times slower and harder. So what are they going to do with travellers that are already exhausted from travel? Piss them off with a hard-to-walk-on floor. There's also NEVER 30,000 people in South Station; where did they get that number from? Let's put this in perspective: Fenway stadium, average summer weekend game, is ~30,000 people. Even at peak commuter rush hour, I think you'd be hard pressed to find even one TENTH that number of people at any one time.

The electric current generated by the Crowd Farm could then be used for educational purposes, such as lighting up a sign about energy.

Wow. Oh. Wow.

The MBTA (which is BILLIONS of dollars in debt) and Amtrak (same...) have much bigger priorities than some stupid concept like this. How about PA systems which actually work (and don't broadcast "please report suspicious packages, safety is our NUMBER ONE PRIORITY!" every 2 minutes), bus fareboxes which work in cold weather, online lookup+refilling of Charliecard balances, integration of Charliecards into the parking garages, or online bus status? (the busses have been equipped for years with such a capability.)

Or even the "signaling" systems in the orange line which are constantly broken, or replacing more cars on the green line (the newer cars use much more efficient motors which are also capable of regenerative braking), same for the red line. The entire orange and blue lines are also non-regenerative braking as well.

Re:bigger fish to fry- what a stupid project (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048041)

And here is the killer question.
What would be the payback time? How long would it take to "make" enough power to pay for the floor?
Or even better how long would it take to make enough power to make up for the power it took to make the floor?

Re:bigger fish to fry- what a stupid project (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048273)

This sand you refer to, is this warm sand? Haha.
I think you may be overthinking how such a plate would work. In no means does it have to be sensitive enough for you to notice the pressure in any fashion at all. Think how pressure plates work for vehicles at intersections, fast food restaurants, etc. Same idea but generating power from it. Standing on one of those plates you wouldn't notice that it's there or not with no difference than the cement next to it. Also if the plate had an extremely small amount of give that would actually be better on your feet for prolonged priods. Someone could take it a step further and even use water pressure underneath a layer of cement to create a sort of hydroelectric power if it was equally efficient.
I don't think using people for electricity is exactly wonderful but this method isn't "suspicious", its more like the concept of using solar power. However I don't like some corporation abusing our presence to benefit without our consent or even knowledge.

hell no! (3, Insightful)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047907)

That will make it slightly, but measurably, harder for me to walk across that surface!

Yet another silly energy article (5, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047919)

Let's do the math:
  • Let's say we can grab say one-tenth of a walker's energy without them caring.
  • Walking takes about 1/20th of a horsepower.
  • So we're getting 1/200th of a horsepower from each person.
  • If we assume there's 1000 people walking by, that's two horsepower.
  • About 1500 watts.
  • That's about ten cents an hour. Given the variability of traffic, maybe a dollar a day.
  • Assuming the mechanism costs a measly $100,000, at a dollar a day you can't even pay the interest on the loan.
  • PLus it probably needs more than $1 a day of maintenance.
  • Not a good idea.

Or how about better ideas? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048109)

Use regenerative braking on all the lines? I hear that some of the trains do not yet have that.
Put Solar panels on all the roofs in Boston.

Life follows Art (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047937)

So are we witnessing the return of step-activated booby traps in modern civilization?

I for one welcome our new huge-spherical-stone-balls-heading-right-for-us masters.

Energy isn't free (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047947)

If people have to step on a somewhat soft floor to produce this energy, they will expend a certain amount more energy walking than normal. Now, sure, if this is done in your average American city, that isn't a bad thing, the average American could afford to do a bit more exercise.

It's also not likely to be a very energy-efficient energy collection system, for every ten joules of energy expended walking on the squishy platform I'd be surprise to hear of one joule of energy collected.

Already Done (kind of) in Britain (3, Interesting)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047977)

I believe that I saw an article on Slashdot several months ago where this kind of idea was implemented in Britain, but it was on the roads. Cars getting onto the highways would drive over large plates; the plates would move and generate enough electricity to run street lights. Not a bad idea, but I wonder if the energy return in this case would be enough to justify the cost of installation.

They're overlooking something (3, Insightful)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 6 years ago | (#20047985)

The people walking on this surface will know they're doing work; to get a perceptible amount of power, the load on the walkers will be perceptible too.

The real engineering trick with this design is explaining to the people that they're not just rats on a treadmill. That's not an easy problem for MIT kids to solve on their slide rules...

Especially if they're going to put systems like this in "crowd" areas - crowds aren't only composed of healthy adults, they also contain children, disabled people, etc. How hard would it be to push a wheelchair across this thing?

just the floors? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20047999)

I'd think attaching these to the hands of all the MIT students would generate enough up and down motion to power the state.

How about just starting at the gym? (1)

Alpelopa (864348) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048005)

I've often wondered why no one has designed exercise equipment that works this way. Especially exercise bicycles, which don't even need to provide calibrated resistance.

A Lawyer's Dream! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20048057)

Sideways slippage? WTF??? The first person to take a pratfall is going to be a bazillionaire. Seems to me that they would do better to make something that, oh, say, GEEZERS could walk on without falling down and breaking a hip. Like, I dunno, maybe have the damned things depress a quarter inch wnem stepped on? Something anyone who's ever walked on carpet can be comfortable with?

Who came up with this idea, Rube Goldberg? Get back to the drawing board, fellows, only this time stay away from the astronauts [guardian.co.uk] before you design the damned things.

-mcgrew [kuro5hin.org] (get off my lawn!)

I don't buy it (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048085)

If I read this correctly they claim that for each human step you can power a 120W bulb for a second. Something tells me they are using funny numbers here. Have you ever gone to one of those museums, or somewhere else that has a hand generator hooked up to a small tv or light bulb? It takes a decent amount of cranking, and this is a case where your puprose is turning the crank so most of your energy is directed towards that goal. With walking most of your energy directed into another goal, walking. There is no way that the energy transfered, collected and usable even comes close to 120W/s per step. Escpecially if you are going to have a surface that you can actually walk on normally.

CommuterCise (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048111)

Why should we spend time both commuting to work, and exercising at the gym?

They should outfit the vehicles with exercise bikes with dynamos. Pay people to pedal everyone to work, instead of the pedalers paying for the ride. Watch the energy costs go down, and watch the obesity problems go down, too. Then watch more people bike to work on a freerunning bicycle, except in bad weather.

Then make people pay penalties for being over the average weight, and the entire system finds its optimum lean efficiency.

Ultimate Weight Loss Tool!!! (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048117)

They should trial this in the fattest city in the US (apparently, Houston). Install these devices on every refrigerator door, toilet flusher, and McDonald's trash can flap in the city, and watch the pounds melt off.

I would do it differently (2, Interesting)

Orleron (835910) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048157)

Instead of making a surface where people depress some kind of dynamo, why not just capture vibrations generated from walking on the floor? That way, you're only using *wasted* energy which is normally dissipated in the form of sound, vibrations, and heat, rather than make people work to walk on a squishy floor.

Nice, but... (1)

FridayBob (619244) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048195)

... how cost effective can any such a solution be?

If it's not very efficient, the solution had better look something like a cheap and durable mat that converts footsteps directly into electric energy. If it's more complex, for example requiring a fancy hydraulic system, then it had better be a lot more efficient or else the cost will likely turn out to be prohibitive.

Let's get (somewhat) practical... (2, Interesting)

martyb (196687) | more than 6 years ago | (#20048219)

FTFS:

"A responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps would be installed beneath the station's main lobby.

And when the snow comes in winter, when the floor is wet and/or icy, people will be falling all over the place increasing their energy donation to the system. <sarcasm>grin</sarcasm>

But seriously, just how much would it COST to build, install, and maintain a floor-wide energy absorbing system? May I suggest they put these panels under the stairs, instead? Especially on the stairs going DOWN. Take advantage of the energy of the crowds where the investment is smallest and the payback is the greatest. This could even be developed as an after-market item and installed ANYWHERE, without having to modify existing infrastructure. i.e. place meta-steps on top of the existing steps and then wire the meta-steps together.

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