At the London Olympics, which start tonight, people will run, walk, and jump for gold as well as green power. Outside the main stadium, 20 circular slabs lie underfoot, ready to capture the kinetic energy from bustling spectators. With every step, the recycled-rubber tiles will light up nearby LED lamps for 30 seconds.
That might not sound like much, but the millions of steps expected to pound the pavement between the stadium and a new mall could make it worthwhile. With three days of battery storage, the system can provide electricity as crowds ebb and flow.
The company that makes the tiles, PaveGen, hopes to eventually lay its slabs where they make major impacts, such as off-grid, highly populated cities in the developing world. “We’re discovering new uses for the product every day,” says founder Laurence Kemball-Cook. “I truly believe the sky’s the limit.” But the ground is the focus.
Feet have already fueled sidewalk advertisements, lighting in an elementary school hallway, and a music festival. Now the 25-year-old feels his invention is ready for the big games. And if walking isn’t your sport, the Twister-like tiles can also light up dance floors.