Japan harnesses energy from footstepsDecember 13, 2008
Train stations in Tokyo are harnessing the energy of legions of commuters to power advertising hoardings and ticket machines.
Experiments have started this week at two of the Japanese capitals’ busiest stations, with special flooring tiles installed in front of ticket turnstiles. Every time a passenger steps on the mats, they trigger a small vibration that can be stored as energy.
Multiplied many times over by the 400,000 people who use Tokyo Station on an average day, according to East Japan Railway, and there is sufficient energy to light up electronic signboards.
“We are just testing the system at the moment to examine its full potential,” said Takuya Ikeba, a spokesman for JR East, adding that the tiles are constructed of layers of rubber sheeting, to absorb the vibrations, and ceramic.
Deeply dependent on imported fuel to power its industries, Japanese companies are at the forefront of research into clean and reuseable energy sources.
On the other side of Tokyo, a remarkable 2.4 million people pass through the sprawling Shibuya Station on an average week day, with many of them now treading on Soundpower Corp.’s “Power Generation Floor.”
“An average person, weighing 60 kg, will generate only 0.1 watt in the single second required to take two steps across the tile,” said Yoshiaki Takuya, a planner with Soundpower Corp. “But when they are covering a large area of floor space and thousands of people are stepping or jumping on them, then we can generate significant amounts of power.”
Stored in capacitors, the power can be channeled to energy-hungry parts of the station, he said, including the electrical lighting system and the ticket gates.