Tiles Harvest Marathon Runners' Energy

Emerging tech lets marathon runners power more than just themselves.

Participants will charge through the Boston Marathon today, tracing the route of the world's oldest annual marathon competition. One day all that athletic energy could be tapped to power multimedia for the event itself.

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Recently the Paris Marathon showed that such a feat is possible. Race organizers laid out an 82-foot span of rubber tiles along the route made by the London-based company Pavegen Systems from recycled truck tires. The tiles took kinetic energy from footfalls and converted it into very small amounts of electricity.

The tiles generated up to 8 watts with each step, Bloomberg's Alex Morales reported. Admittedly that's nothing. But with 40,000 runners it was enough to power screens and signs throughout the race. Not bad for a start.

Although the final numbers haven't come out yet, Schneider Electric, which sponsored the race, promised to donate nearly $13,000 to charity if energy generation reached 7 kilowatt hours.

We have seen this type of thing before - remember those dance floors? - but the core technology still has to make big strides before it's a sound investment. At $76 a tile, the price will need to go way down and efficiency will need to go way up.

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Pavegen continues to work on getting its tiles embedded along other big races and has been demonstrating them around the world, recently in Chile and Houston. Maybe the micro-power experts will be able to think of more applications that could come out of this to benefit racers and fans. I look forward to finding out, one step at a time.

Photo: Pavegen's tiles at the Paris Marathon powered screens. Credit: Pavegen Systems via EarthTechling.com.