When you walk or run, you generate energy. And although a lot of the energy goes to burning calories and perhaps keeping you fit, much of the mechanical energy is wasted on wearing down the soles of your shoes.
Over the years, plenty of effort and brain power has been devoted to developing devices that convert mechanical energy into electricity. There are flashlights that power up after the user shakes them or turns a crank. These sidewalk tiles turn the footfalls of walkers into electricity. These wind energy blades convert breezes into electricity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But this little device from Carnegie Mellon startup SolePower could be unobtrusive enough to make a difference, not just here in the States, but in impoverished nations where electrical utilities are sporadic and unreliable.
Inventor Matt Stanton and Hahna Alexander launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop their gizmo. Their idea is to make an inexpensive insole — as opposed to a pair of shoes — that can be swapped between footwear. A person simply slips the insole into a pair of shoes and then snakes the charging wire through the laces to a battery that can be fastened around an ankle or clipped to the top of the shoe. Walking two to two-and-a-half miles should be enough to completely charge an iPhone.
Currently, the team is testing out their device and they hope to bring it to market in 2014. Once that happens, they want to implement a “buy one, send one” program, which would allow customers who can afford to purchase two insoles to send one to a person in a developing nation.
SolePower recently won 2nd place at the 2013 Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability conference in Boulder, CO.
The insole will retail for about $140.
Credit: Sole Power Kickstarter video screen grab