Energy generating floor installed at Union South

Energy generating floor installed at Union South

University of Wisconsin researchers are behind cutting edge technology in the field of renewable energy, and they’re collecting data with the help of thousands of Wisconsin Badgers.

It looks like typical flooring, but don’t let the low-tech façade fool you. The wood planks installed at Union South are made almost entirely from recycled wood pulp. The planks are chemically treated to produce an electrostatic charge when they come into contact with an embedded electrode.

“We are trying to harvest energy from foot traffic,” said Xudong Wang, a University of Wisconsin professor of materials science and engineering.

The electricity generated powers an information sign that explains the technology and will track the power harnessed by thousands of footsteps over the coming months.

“So this is one type of energy different from solar energy or nuclear energy,” Wang said. “It’s energy from environmental mechanical resources.”

Wang said the electricity theoretically can be used in a number of different ways including being stored and used to power electronics.

“Another way we can use it, is we can integrate it with the building as a smarter building infrastructure that can directly power sensors or other electronic networks,” Wang said.

Wang said there are other materials for harnessing footstep energy but they’re costly and non-recyable making them impractical on a large scale.