There’s no better power than people power! A team of engineering students at Rice University in Houston, Texas have invented a shoe that can harness the energy of everyday walking to, theoretically, power small devices such as cell phones or mp3 players. Further down the line, the device could hopefully be refined to power medical devices such as a pacemaker.
Rice University students Carlos Armada, Julian Castro, David Morilla, and Tyler Wiest invented the shoes as part of their senior year engineering capstone project. The oil well services and equipment company Cameron International challenged the Rice University team to come up with a device that could harness energy from human movement. Seeing that there already was a patent on a device that could harness the power of the human knee, the four Rice students looked lower on the human body. They decided to focus on the heel of the foot to capture energy, since gravity is already doing most of the work. This, obviously, led to the idea of a shoe.
The pedestrian power prototype was attached with a lever at the heel. Once a person pushes down on the lever through simple walking, the lever cranks a collection of cogs and gears which, in turn, are attached to a small battery. The more you walk, the more the battery will be charged, thus creating energy for small devices.
While the energy-creating shoes are just a prototype, the appearance is big, bulky, and not very practical. Then again, the point of the project wasn’t to create a pair of fashionable shoes, but rather to see if natural walking could store power for a small battery. The Rice University seniors hope a new team will continue with the project to make the device smaller, less bulky and more powerful, and ultimately more wearable. This prototype also somewhat resembles the Re-Walk Rehabilitation device that helps paraplegics walk.