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People Power: How Crowds Can Create Electricity

Take one step and you can power two 60W light bulbs for one flickering second. Not much. Yet a rush of fans at a concert or commuter walking through a commuter train station could create the energy for the signs they pass.crowd farm MIT


Where crowds walk, build, “a responsive sub-floor” of blocks that slip against each other from the pressure of the steps. This “generates power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current” according to two MIT grad students.

James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk suggest that this flooring be built into buildings where there is considerable foot traffic. Somehow dubbing this invention a “crowd farm” seems rather drab.

The duo’s other idea depends on bar crowds. Bounce up and down (between gulps of beer) when you sit on their MIT-designed bar stools. Your weight makes a “flywheel to spin, powering a dynamo — or electrical generator — and in turn, four lights.” The Holcim Forum in China gave this stool design “the top prize.”

So I guess if you care about world energy conservation, you’ll get energetic at your favorite watering hole. Imagine walking into a bar for the first time and seeing a crowd of people bopping up and down on their seats as they talk.

Some lower-tech and less expensive ways to generate energy from human power are already in use. The non-profit, Ecosystems designed a pedal generator that’s used in remote parts of Nepal for lighting, water sterilization and more. Each one can produce enough electricity to provide minimum light for 200 homes, or light a schoolroom and run a television and DVD for students. Also cyclists are using headlights that are powered by their pedaling. Hikers’ backpacks are designed to use their walking to charge their cell phones and MP3 players.

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