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11.13.2006

T3: Fighting Entropy

East Japan Railway has commandeered the Marunouchi North exit of Tokyo Station, one of the world's busiest thoroughfares, for an experiment about generating power. In mid-October, officials installed sensors in the floor under ticket turnstiles to absorb energy from the millions of footsteps of the 700,000 commuters who pass through each day. The devices convert the vibrations from each step into power by using piezoelectric elements that produce tiny quantities of electrical charge when weight is applied. Executives dream of one day using commuters’ footsteps to power information boards, lights and other devices throughout stations. But the experiment has been disappointing so far. On the test’s first day, the devices created only 3,600 watts a second, enough to light a 100-watt bulb for 36 seconds. The experiment will continue until mid-December.

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