Jogging a few miles each day can help you lose weight and maintain a high level of energy. Now, a group of students at Rice University have found a way to turn that 5k into way more than just a power boost for your body.
The group, which calls itself the Agitation Squad, is made up of four seniors - Carlos Armada, Julian Castro, David Morilla and Tyler Wiest. Together, they've created a prototype pair of shoes called PediPower that are capable of extracting and storing kinetic energy with every step.
Kinetic energy has long been an untapped resource for creating electricity. Recently, we've seen more researchers taking a look at the energy hidden in our motions, searching for ways to turn it into free sources of clean, renewable electricity. Energy storage devices like the nPowerPeg and human-powered gym equipment are prime examples.
Working with the Motion Analysis Laboratory at Shriners Hospital for Children in Houston, the team from Rice determined the force at the heel delivered far more potential for power than any other part of the foot.
“We went to the lab and saw the force distribution across the bottom of your foot, to see where the most force is felt,” Morilla said. “We found it would be at the heel and at the balls of your toes, as you push off. We went with the heel because, unless you’re sprinting, you’re letting gravity do the work.”
Armed with this knowledge, the team set about creating an arm that fits around the heel of the shoe. When walking or running, the arm that hits the ground first and levers up as the foot comes down. "The arm is attached to a gearbox so that with every step, the gears turn slightly to drive a motor mounted on the side of the shoe. This generates electricity that is sent through wires via a voltage regulator to a belt-mounted battery pack," explains Gizmag.
The seniors expect the project to be picked up by another team at Rice in the fall, with the hope they can refine the materials, shrink the size and boost the power output, all of which will get PediPower closer to being a commercial product.