Producing Electricity From Shoppers’ Steps

Have you ever come back exhausted from a day’s shopping and wondered where all your energy went?

Pavegen's kinetic paving slab (Picture:

The chances are you probably covered some distance rushing from shop to shop trying to catch a bargain and much of your energy will have been absorbed by the concrete of the pavement.

In an innovative bid to put this wasted energy to use, London’s Westfield City Shopping Centre has become the first place in the UK to place an order for some rather snazzy sounding Pavegen slabs.

The rubber slabs use kinetic energy (that’s the energy generated by the movement of walking, for example), to convert shoppers’ footsteps into electricity.

The colourful rubber squares will be scattered among the normal paving slabs of the shopping centre, and will flex about 5mm when stepped on.

It’s this flexing that allows the slab to absorb the kinetic energy from the footstep either to be stored in a lithium polymer battery or be used instantly to power nearby electric appliances, such as lights.

In order to minimise the impact of the environment of manufacturing the slabs, each one is made from recycled materials such as old tyres and has an estimated life-span of 5 years, or approximately 20 million steps.

Not only will these innovative gadgets create 2.1 watts of sustainable electricity per hour for the shopping centre, they’ll look pretty cool too – each one will glow faintly when stepped on, at a cost of only 5 per cent of the energy produced by the slab itself.

With around 30 million shoppers visiting Westfield each year (and we can imagine lots of kids excited by the magic glow), these green gadgets are set to be a sure-fire hit.

The Flying Pizza Delivery Service

It’s Friday night and after last week’s bank holiday celebrations, many of you are probably planning a quiet night in watching the Paralympics and eating takeaway.

Once you’re nice and settled on the sofa, even the short walk to open the door to the pizza delivery man can seem like a lot of effort – how much better would it be if the pizza could just fly through an open window to be delivered straight to your lap?

Well this invention by some students at the Freie Universität Berlin can do just that! We’re sorely tempted to commission one for our local pizzeria. Wonder if it could be adapted for currys and kebabs?

U.S. Postal Service Prints 1 Billion Simpsons Stamps

We’re used to hearing people grumble about the state of Royal Mail or the (in)efficiency of their service, but recent news from its cousin across the pond suggests that it’s not a peculiarly British affliction that our postal service suffers from.

The full set of Simpsons stamps (Picture: Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

It’s no great secret that the U.S. Postal Service has not been in fantastic financial health lately, as last month it posted a whopping loss of $5.2 billion in its third quarter, so that by the end of September it may have lost an annual total of $15 billion.

How on earth could one organisation lose such an astonishingly large amount of money in one year, I hear you ask? Well it might have something to do with the Postal Service being run by a group of over-enthusiastic teenage boys.

At least that’s the impression given by just one of their more amusing loss-making ventures – the decision to print 1 billion commemorative Simpsons stamps, incurring $1.2 million in printing costs.

Unsurprisingly, given the fact that for them to sell out it would have taken the equivalent of one seventh of the world’s entire population buying one each, only 318 million of the stamps ended up being sold. The rest had to be destroyed at a further cost to the postal service.

So what went wrong? Was there a flaw in their market research process? Were the sales forecasts skewed by exceptional economic conditions?

Well, erm, actually it turns out the decision to print 1 billion of the stamps was made on a ‘judgment call’ that the Simpsons would be twice as popular as Elvis Presley, who featured on their best ever selling commemorative stamp to mark what would have been his 58th birthday. Now that’s what you call unfounded optimism – d’oh!

Airships – Cargo Vessels of the Future?

Airships are one of those rare vehicles that at once conjure images of old-fashioned blimps and super-futuristic space vessels, but are very rarely associated with any practical uses in the present day.

An artist's impression of a cargo airship at an Arctic oil rig. (AP Photo/Discovery Air Innovations)

That all might be set to change, however, as a group of researchers, policymakers, developers and financial backers met in Anchorage last week to discuss airships as a possible solution for transporting cargo across Alaska.

This might come as a surprise to most people, as blimps these days are mainly seen being used as gimmicky brand promotions or tourist viewing platforms.

What people don’t know is that airships present a practical and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional cargo planes in areas where building runways is not always feasible or desirable, as they are capable of vertical take-offs and landings.

They can also travel for days or weeks at a time before refuelling, and can hold cargo loads weighing thousands of pounds.

And if you’ve still got an image of a traditional blimp in your head, think again, as the new generation of airships have been conceived by NASA’s Ames Research Center following interest from the U.S. Department of Defence in the transport potential of airships.

Pete Worden, director of the research centre, said that despite their old-fashioned image, airships are just one example of an outdated mode of transportation which could find new uses thanks to modern technology.

One other example is renewed interest in cargo ships equipped with sails to make use of wind power, which unlike fuel engines costs nothing to run.

The Aston Martin of Bicycles – Literally

Hands up if you’ve been inspired by the Olympics to get on your bike. If you’re one of the people fuelling the reported boost in bicycle sales since the Games, you’ve probably had at least one “blimey, road bikes aren’t cheap are they?!” moment.

The Aston Martin One-77 Bicycle

Once a certain model has caught your eye, however, and you’ve taken it for a bit of a test ride, suddenly forking out something in the region of £500 at the lower end of the scale doesn’t seem like such a stretch.

But what if the price tag was closer to £25,000? Nope, that’s not a typo – Aston Martin, famous for making cars for the likes of James Bond, have teamed up with Factor Bikes to create a two-wheeled version of their One-77 Coupe.

The One-77 Cycle has a price tag of $39,000 and has been described as “the world’s most technologically advanced road bicycle”.

The frame is made of lightweight carbon fibre, but that’s about where the similarities with a normal road bike end, because the One-77 is accessorized with a high-tech computer system and a complex set of sensors.

These provide the rider with over 100 specific measurements, ranging from crank torque and force to sub-divided leg power data to tell you where you’re wasting energy.

And just in case you want to keep all your friends updated on your rate of ascent or your rear wheel speed, the bike also offers a Bluetooth connection to sync it with your smartphone.

Factor Bikes have boasted that the One-77 “represents the pinnacle of British engineering prowess”. If the bike’s spec isn’t tempting enough, only 77 will be made, adding an extra element of exclusivity into the mix. They will also be custom-made, with each client’s measurements integrated into the construction process – practically a bargain then!

Lorry Driver Gets Company Name Tattooed on His Head

How far would you go to demonstrate commitment to your employer? Perhaps you bring them their coffee in the morning, volunteer to work late, send them a card at Christmas, get their logo and telephone number tattooed on your head…

Roy King's tattoo for Heard Environmental Services

What’s that you say? No? Well that’s exactly how 30 year old Roy King decided to pay tribute to Heard Demolition Skip and Hire, the company he has been working for for the past two and a half years.

The father of six explained his decision to get inked saying, “my employers have been so good to me. The blokes I work with are great, I just love it. I am going to work here forever.”

Proving he has a head for sales as well as driving lorries, Heard opted to have the company’s telephone number added underneath its logo so that people in the supermarket would be able to see the number on his head, which might prompt them to call up and use the services.

His boss was said to be left gob-smacked and speechless by the gesture, going on to say, “This tattoo is in full view 24 hours a day and it has been a mad and great compliment to us as a company.”

The Folding Car Of The Future

One of the familiar agonies faced by motorists – driving around for a parking space only to find some numpty has parked himself inconsiderately across 2 spaces leaving a 3/4 gap just that frustratingly bit too small for you to park in – may soon be a thing of the past with these super cool folding cars set to arrive on the market in 2013.

Oh, and it can spin 360° – we want one now!

Ice Cream Van’s $300 Fine For Noise Disorder Jingle

Everyone remembers the innocent joy evoked by the melodious jingle of their local ice cream van on a balmy summer’s day with a fondness equalled only by our nostalgic impulsion to keep a fervent belief in Father Christmas alive and kicking in each successive generation.

The ice cream truck cited for its overly loud jingle

Simply put, it’s one of the simple pleasures in life that we wouldn’t begrudge any child. Except, it seems, in Horn Lake, Mississippi, where police have slapped an ice cream truck driver with a hefty $300 fine for playing his jingle too loud.

The ice cream truck reportedly violated a city noise ordinance which states that noise from vehicles must not travel to be heard further than 30 feet away.

Absolutely adamant to stick to the letter of the law, Horn Lake Police Chief Darryl Whaley stated, “Unless there is an exception carved out, we apply the ordinance as it’s written.”

And if that doesn’t sound bad enough, the Police Chief went on to explain that the initial reason for stopping the vehicle was for the infraction of selling in the park, which is not allowed in the city.

Now we have to admit, Horn Lake does sound like a safe and peaceful community – after all, if their police officers have time to go around measuring the sound wave radii of ice cream vans, then presumably there aren’t too many proper criminals running amok for them to chase.

But banning ice cream vans from parks, silencing their jingles and robbing children of the euphoric scramble to the front of the queue is just not something we can get on board with!

130 Mile Refuelling Trip For Hydrogen Taxis

The organisers of the London 2012 were not only looking for record-breaking success for team GB in the medals table at this home Olympics, but also hoping to deliver a gold-standard ‘eco-games’.

One of the new zero emissions taxis (Picture: Daily Mail)

One part of their eco strategy was to provide low-emission, hydrogen-fuelled taxis to help ferry members of the Olympic family and other VIPs to the venues in stylish yet sustainable fashion.

Running on hydrogen, the vehicles produce water instead of dirty fumes out of their tail pipes, helping to improve London’s notoriously poor air quality.

So far, so good – but how do these technological miracles refuel, I hear you ask? Erm, here comes the embarrassing bit… due to the closure of the hydrogen fuelling station at Lea Interchange near the Olympic Park for security reasons, three of the cabs had to be loaded onto a lorry and taken all the way to Swindon to be refuelled last week.

And before you ask, no it wasn’t a super eco, hydrogen-fuelled, water-producing lorry that took the cabs on their 130-mile round trip, it was just one of your bog-standard, fossil-fuel guzzling HGVs. Though at least it didn’t drive back empty!

Although slight cause for embarrassment, a spokesperson from the Government-run Technology Strategy Board deftly brushed off criticism by explaining that the benefits of the taxis are twofold.

First and foremost, they serve to show the rest of the world how widely hydrogen-fuelled vehicles could be used in future, and secondly, they make a big difference to the level of particulates and air quality in London, “even if there’s a small carbon problem with having to ship them up to Swindon to pick up hydrogen”.

You’ll also probably be reassured to hear that the refuelling situation is temporary, with an extra hydrogen refuelling station being opened near Heathrow airport.

The Turbo School Bus

We know it’s school holidays at the moment, but if you’re worried about getting your kids to school on time come September, you may want to invest in one of these:

We bet it would get the kids out of the door and onto the bus more quickly too. Wishing you all a fabulous weekend!