Floor Burn

Running, dancing, and driving can power the future.


Published:

Who would have thought that a jogger could illuminate a street sign, or a sports fan could power a stadium light?

Meet Elizabeth Redmond, the brainchild behind Ann Arbor-based POWERleap, a product development firm focused on generating clean energy. While attending the University of Michigan, Redmond created SmartFloor, a device that covers a floor or staircase that produces and collects electricity from people’s day-to-day activities such as walking, running, dancing, and driving. “An important factor that’s going to be apparent to people is that they have a role in the energy environment,” Redmond says.

Although energy harvesting isn’t the typical subject matter for an art student, Redmond credits her quest for creating clean power to her upbringing on a farm in Whitmore Lake. “Raised in the country, connected to the earth, growing our food — (power) wasn’t a burden; that’s how life was,” she says.

After taking a physics class at U-M and talking to engineering professors, Redmond was intrigued by piezoelectricity, the electrical charge that occurs when materials such as crystals and ceramics are crushed or smashed. Taking such collisions a step further, Redmond created the prototype for the SmartFloor and set it on a sidewalk in Ann Arbor. The product was quick to generate demand from willing participants, and Redmond soon learned “it was much more than a design thesis.”

Redmond says the SmartFloor can help reduce energy use in a building or a parking structure by up to 50 percent. She also markets a related product, called PowerFloor, which uses electromagnetic induction to create energy. Redmond says each step taken on the PowerFloor can generate five watts of electricity, which is enough to power lights or signs. The cost of a 20-inch-square unit is about $500. Redmond expects the cost to come down to around $200 once production increases.

To help generate interest, PowerFloor was installed on a staircase and landing at one of the transportation hubs that lead to the main stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Redmond says the panels power an interactive screen, which lights up as fans traverse up and down the stairs. db

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Short Win

Ebb and Flow

From fine to fashion jewelry, all in one family.

Bozii Time

Pepper Ghost

An old magician’s trick is digitized to project hologram-like effects.

Eyes on Success

Three siblings share Young CEO of the Year title for their decorative eyeglasses.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Fast Casual Falafel Concept Coming to Detroit’s Midtown District
    A new fast-casual dining concept — billing itself as “a fast-from-scratch kitchen serving...
  2. Parade Company Announces Celebrity Lineup for Thanksgiving Day
  3. Detroit's Green Grocer Initiative Stimulates $5.3M in Infrastructure Improvements
    Family Fair Foods in Lafayette Park in Detroit is among 16 area grocery stores planning to make...
  4. From Detroit to the North Pole: New App Offers Direct Line to Santa Claus
    Washington Township-based PackageFromSanta.com has launched a new app that arranges a...
  5. New Owners of Pretzel Peddler Plan Regional, National Expansions
    The new owners of The Pretzel Peddler in Clarkston intend to double its number of locations...
  6. International Summit to Address Cyber Security at Cobo Center
    Cyber security experts from around the world are headed to Detroit for the 2014 North American...