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

Buildings In Time

From jewelry to historic buildings, Roger Basmajian embraces urban redevelopment.

Safe and Secure

Many inventions that have the greatest impact on everyday life are deceptively simple. Auburn Hills-based Hydra-Zorb’s cushion clamp could be considered one of those breakthroughs.

Capital Gain

If area banks backed loans against intellectual property, it would propel Michigan’s video game industry.

Stacking Up

Joe H. Schodowski, president and CEO of Shelving Inc. in Auburn Hills, sums up the company’s offerings succinctly: “We rack your world,” he says.

Virtual Anatomy

Researchers at the University of Michigan are taking the science of anatomy into the simulated 3-D world.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Detroit Historic Scarab Club to Launch Major Rebranding Campaign
    The Scarab Club in Detroit’s Midtown district will unveil a major rebranding campaign in early...
  2. Ann Arbor’s TITLE Boxing Club Adds New Owners
    Ann Arbor-based TITLE Boxing Club International— which has grown to 150 boxing clubs from 20...
  3. Detroit’s Metropolitan Building to be Converted into Extended-stay Hotel
    Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and two local partners will convert the historic...
  4. GM Unveils Luxury Edition of 2016 GMC Yukon
    General Motors Co. today revealed the 2016 GMC Yukon SLT Premium Edition, a more luxurious...
  5. GM Renaissance Center Launches Weekly Summer Event Series
    The GM Renaissance Center has announced the launch of On the Plaza, a new summer program...
  6. Automotive Cybersecurity Summit to be Held in Detroit
    Leaders in cybersecurity from across the U.S. are coming to Detroit in July to discuss safeguards...