How can we find alternative energy from simple human movement? Well, the idea for this alternative energy source came from a pair of MIT students Tad Juscyzk and James Graham. The duo announced their ideas at the Holcim Forum 2007 awards ceremony where they won top honors.
The project seeks to convert the energy of human movement in places where it is abundant and dense, like in urban settings, to energy suitable for consumer use. Juscyzk and Graham's crowd farm was based in Boston's South Station terminal. The floor of this popular railway destination would contain a responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks. These nodes would depress slightly when stepped upon and would be in station's main lobby. The friction of the blocks as people walked would generate power through a dynamo, or a device converting energy of motion to this new form of alternative energy. One human step can only power two 60W light bulbs for one flickering second, but the entire crowd in South station, or 28,527 steps, can power a moving train for one second. In experiments, the partners proved how the sitting down on a stool can work up enough energy to turn on four LED lights.
As the debate over enthanol from corn, from switchgrass and the like begins to heat up, perhaps truly sustainable energy methods will emerge as the next big thing. Will the economists find fault in this clean technology? Well, right now its hard to employ economically on a large scale, but it may be the next big clean tech boom of the future. Could we see Exxon or Chevron funding crowd farm projects some day?