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Brief Published: 12 Jan 2015

Electricity-Generating Sneakers

Pounding the pavement could soon become a source of renewable energy, thanks to an electricity-generating shoe concept from Vancouver-based design student Taylor Ward.

Step is a blueprint for shoes featuring insoles made from a material that generates voltage when stretched and compressed. These piezoelectric generators could produce up to 100 watts of energy per step.

The energy would be discharged and fed back into the grid via specially designed wireless charging pads placed in convenient locations around a city, such as stations, parks and stadiums.

Ward hopes Step will offer a way for citizens to give back to their communities by donating energy to homeless shelters or children's hospitals, as well as funnelling surplus energy to homes and offices. The same system could also be used to charge users' personal electronics.

An accompanying app would show citizens' individual contributions to the city's sustainable energy supply, as well as identifying nearby charging points. The app could also be used to implement a reward scheme, offering discounted or free products and services to users in return for their personal electricity.

Step has made it to the final stages of an Intel-sponsored student design competition with the theme 'Envisioning the Wearable City'. The event forms part of the Interaction15 conference, scheduled to take place in San Francisco in February.

Piezoelectric generators are a promising technology in the medical and wearable tech worlds, where atom-thin electricity generators and vibration-based device charging are among the latest developments.

For more coverage of sustainable energy innovations, see Eco-Energy: Smarter Savers and CO2 Fit: Sustainable Transport App.