Wood floors have long been a popular choice in domestic settings. They’re beautiful for one, and hard wearing as well as being easy to clean. And now, it seems that wood floors might even be able to generate their own renewable energy from people walking on them. The heavier the ‘traffic’ – the more people walking on them – the more energy is created.
A similar story was covered in Newsweek, about tiles that generate energy through the weight or footsteps on them, but this development, using wood floors rather than tiles, could be even more revolutionary and ‘green.’ These floors can create energy, and they can be made from wood pulp that would otherwise have been wasted, so they are sustainable, too.
Wood pulp is a common bi-product of many industrial practices, so there’s plenty that could be reused. The cellulose nanofibres inside the pulp can produce a charge once chemically treated, so by embedding the nanofibres into the new flooring product, footsteps can enable the floors in our homes to create electricity that can then be used to power lights or charge batteries. Energy-harvesting floors have the potential to be very affordable because wood pulp is so abundant and easy to get hold of.
It works by putting chemically-treated nanofibres into ‘functional portions,’ meaning thin layers of no more than 1mm thick. Increasing the number of layers could be an option for generating more energy.
Other products make great eco-friendly options, such as cork flooring, and there are many natural wood flooring options available.
The technology for the energy-producing wood pulp floors is being developed by Associate Professor Xudong Wang of the University of Wisconsin, whose ultimate vision is for the technology to be installed in very high-traffic areas such as shopping malls or sports stadia, where thousands of people will walk across it. Wang has been studying how to make energy from people and their activity, and one thing all people access daily is the ground beneath them.
Wang will continue to develop his technology to make sure it is durable enough to sustain high traffic. He believes it is already at a stage where a wood pulp domestic floor would still be capable of producing the energy long after the standard life of a floor.