Scientists at the Center for Research in Advanced Materials (CIMAV) have developed a device that fits inside a pair of shoes that harvests the energy made available when someone walks. This energy is then stored in AAA or watch batteries.

The team designed a pill-shaped cylinder adapted to a shoe in order to store the mechanical-vibrational energy the person generates when walking.

Energy Generating Shoe Insole.  Image Credit: Courtesy of Investigación y Desarrollo

Energy Generating Shoe Insole. Image Credit: Courtesy of Investigación y Desarrollo  Click image for the largest view.

With the captured energy they have been able to recharge clock and AAA batteries. The prototype designed by CIMAV in Chihuahua, in the north of Mexico, adapted the ‘pill’ which has a diameter of two inches and a thickness of three millimeters to the sole of a shoe.

Abel Macias Hurtado, head of research and specialist in materials science, said that the pill is a device called piezoelectric, measuring pressure, force and acceleration, placed in the sole, and by means of a circuit converts mechanical energy into microwatts. Once connected to the batteries, it was tested with good results.

Piezoelectric is a term that comes from pressure and electricity. When walking, mechanical force is generated which is “captured or harvested” to generate the energy that is “stored” in the pill-shaped cylinder for further use.

Macias Hurtado indicated that in the area of nanostructured materials an important base of the research is to harvest or produce clean energy, and this prototype is ideal for that purpose.

“We want to improve the circuit of the tablet to make it more efficient at capturing energy. Now we are working in making it more efficient, currently we already have clean energy,” he said.

Macias Hurtado explained that the prototype was implemented in an ordinary shoe with a wide sole so that while people make steps and the shoe sole makes contact with the ground the energy is generated.

Using the basic idea in another way, Macias Hurtado has proposed that as a pair of shoes can generate power for the operation of a battery, he is considering adapting a similar system in a “mat” and place it in the foot traffic path of a mass transport system like the subway. There it could generate energy capable of illuminating the public transport stations.

Engineering physics students of the Autonomous University of Chihuahua and Jesus Gonzalez collaborated with CIMAV for the evaluation of results.

Macias Hurtado said, “Today, the energy generated by people walking is wasted; if we learn to harvest it and turn it into electricity, we can contribute to the global impact.”

Every little bit will help. But the pill-shaped cylinder is going to need to be really low cost. Folks in Mexico are pretty good at low cost production so they may make an idea like this real.


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