Mechanical Engineering students at Rice University have created a way to extract and store energy from each and every step you take.
Their PediPower shoes turn motion into juice for portable electronics and, perhaps someday, for life-preserving medical devices.
The brains behind the operation call themselves the Agitation Squad. The fab four consists of students Carlos Armada, Julian Castro, David Morilla and Tyler Wiest.
The team worked with the Motion Analysis Laboratory at Shriners Hospital for Children in Houston to determine the most efficient region of the foot for producing free energy.
“We went to the lab and saw the force distribution across the bottom of your foot, to see where the most force is felt,” David 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.”
The prototypes deliver an average of 400 milliwatts, enough to charge various types of batteries. The kicks work by sending energy through wires to a belt-mounted battery pack. A voltage regulator keeps it flowing steadily to the battery.
The PediPower hits the ground before any other part of the prototype shoe. A lever arm strikes first. It is attached to a gearbox that replaces much of the shoe’s sole and turns the gears a little with each step. The gears drive a motor mounted on the outside of the shoe that generates electricity to send up to the battery.
The students 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.
“Theoretically it would be something you just wear, and you don’t notice it, that’s the end goal. If you showed someone the shoe while you’re standing still, they wouldn’t even see the device.”
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