Twenty-five-year-old Laurence Kemball-Cook developed his concept for Pavegen – a pavement slab that could generate electricity from footsteps – during his final year of Industrial Design and Technology at Loughborough University in the UK.
With the aim of setting up his own company of the same name, the university supported him through its Student Business Plan competition in 2009. His achievements were further recognised with a Graduate Enterprise Award in 2010.
Another boost was given to the start-up when the Technology Strategy Board awarded it a grant in order to develop the technology further. The Science Minister, David Willetts, even commended it as “imaginative, environmentally friendly and designed for the modern world”.
Pavegen works by converting kinetic energy of footsteps into electricity. Basically, as you step onto the rubber slab it depresses by around 5mm and a low-energy LED inside the slab lights up.
This indicates to users that their step has just generated energy. But only 5% of this energy is used to make the Pavegen slab glow, the other 95% is stored in an on-board battery, or could even be diverted to another device.
This stored energy can be used to power a number of low-energy applications, such as street lighting, bus shelters, advertising and information displays. In the future, the energy could be diverted to other applications, such as charging points for electric cars.
“We’re a new company but our investors and partners have been quick to recognise the great potential of a product that can be seamlessly integrated into existing architecture and generate electricity on its own, without needing to be connected to the grid,” explains Kemball-Cook.
Pavegen has already been showcased at a number of building and architecture exhibitions in the UK where it has received a great deal of interest. “This product could help local authorities, developers and communities reduce their energy bills, but also get their staff and customers engaged in delivering a low-carbon future,” says Kemball-Cook.
Following a few successful pilots, in December 2010 Pavegen received its first installation at a boy’s school in Canterbury, UK. The slabs have been installed in a busy corridor where 1100 students will step across them throughout the day.
Some of the electricity generated has been used to power a fun, interactive display along the walls of the corridor, while the rest is stored in batteries to power some of the school’s lighting. So far it has proven to be a huge success with the students, who are very enthusiastic about generating their own energy.
Pavegen was recently nominated for Product of the Year at the 2011 Brit Insurance Design Awards. Although it didn’t win, it was still a massive achievement for this small, fledgling company considering that they were up against the likes of the Dyson Air Multiplier™ and Apple’s iPad.
The future looks bright for Pavegen, with a number of commissions – including one from Westfield for an urban shopping centre in the London 2012 Olympic village. Kemball-Cook says, “Our energy-generating paving slabs will play an important role in helping Westfield achieve its strict targets for environmental sustainability”.
For further information go to www.pavegen.co.uk