The pavement slab that generates energy whenever a pedestrian walks across it

3 Jul

Remember the video for Billie Jean, where Michael Jackson tiptoes his way  across paving tiles, lighting them as he goes? This iconic image is now  virtually a reality and can harvest energy as we walk, skip or somersault our  way to work in the morning.

When someone treads on a Pavegen slab, the depressed surface generates  electricity, with five per cent used to illuminate the tile itself and the rest  stored in a battery or powering the surrounding area.

Each footstep generates five to eight joules of energy, depending on your  weight. It takes 400,000 joules to boil a kettle but if the tiles are installed  in areas of high footfall they become a viable proposition.

That’s why they’ve been installed at the Westfield Stratford City shopping  centre and will feature at a major London transport hub serving Olympic  venues.

The technology is the brainchild of one of Britain’s brightest young  entrepreneurs, Laurence Kemball-Cook. The industrial design graduate was  inspired while on a placement at a big energy company – but nobody backed  him.

‘There was no innovative need or desire from this company so I happily  wandered off on my own,’ he says. ‘I had a “moment” and it was great – but  technology is such that you get your wow and then realise you’ve got to make the  thing.’

At just 26, he’s been a chief executive for three years and is sitting, or  treading, on a potential fortune. However, Kemball-Cook has been guarded about  revealing the internal workings of his invention, saying only that the slabs are  made from recycled rubber and polymer concrete and use a ‘hybrid’ kinetic  energy-harvesting system.

‘Our technology is complicated,’ he says. ‘We have people in the team who  work on NASA space stations, some really crazy engineers and people from some of  the best universities in Britain. But we’re a small company and our IP  [intellectual property] is what we’re all about, so we have to protect those  assets.

‘I have to be protective of my technology because we’re an early-stage  company. I’m not about to get into any lawsuits and we’re not that keen to  reveal secrets while we’re still really small.’

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