The Guardian has reported that around one million visitors accessed the Olympic Park via a tiled walkway where their footsteps powered the streetlights using a hybrid technology that converts kinetic energy into electricity.
Industrial design engineer Laurence Kemball-Cook dreamt up the idea of turning footsteps into power while at Loughborough University. The young inventor called his creation “footfall harvesting”.
The tile surface flexes about five millimetres when stepped on, which creates kinetic energy that is then converted to produce an average of six watts per footstep.
During the two weeks of the Games, the Pavegen tiles near West Ham underground station generated 20 kilowatt-hours or 72 million joules of energy.
That proved sufficient to keep the walkway streetlamps illuminated at full power through the night and at half power during the day, with plenty of back-up energy left over to spare.
The tiles featured alongside a 3 MW biomass boiler and a roof of solar panels as one of the renewable technologies on show at the Olympics.
Aside from the low-carbon benefits, retailers are reportedly interested in software built into the tiles that registers every footstep.
The system allows shop owners to measure precise footfall numbers in real time. The same software can be used to convey to users how much energy they are helping to create.