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

Data Mine

Two of a Kind

A husband-and-wife team helps raise millions of dollars for two cultural icons in Detroit.

Verifiable Match

Biometric identification system developed at Michigan State University takes facial recognition technology to a new level of clarity

Life Boost

Two executives develop a new product to dispense liquid vitamins.

Urban Life

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. American Expedition Vehicles Completes Move to New Wixom Headquarters
    American Expedition Vehicles, a company that designs and manufactures Jeep accessories and...
  2. Comedian and Auto Enthusiast Jay Leno Headlines Charity Gala in Chesterfield Township in November
    Comedian Jay Leno will perform at a charity gala in Chesterfield Township on Nov. 10 as part of a...
  3. Two-level Corktown Loft in Detroit Draws Record Price of $531K
    Corktown has drawn a record price for a residential loft in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, a...
  4. Olga’s Kitchen to Expand Across Michigan, Remodel Existing Restaurants
    Livonia-based Olga’s Kitchen Inc. plans to expand across Michigan, with up to 10 new locations...
  5. Facial Bar Spa to Open in Royal Oak Next Month, Add Other Locations
    Skinphorea, a new spa with a facial bar concept, is opening its first location on Oct. 13 in...
  6. At Home Opens Bloomfield Township Store, Sixth Michigan Location
    At Home, a Texas-based home décor superstore, has opened a new location in Bloomfield Township....