It could be the last word in concrete solutions to carbon emissions: a paving slab that generates electricity with every footstep taken on it, providing clean power to both cities and remote areas not connected to a national grid. Best of all, it requires mainly used tires and concrete.
The invention is the brainchild of industrial engineering graduate Laurence Kemball-Cook, who came up with the idea, perfected it in his final year at Loughborough University in central England, patented it, set up his company Pavegen and is now busy taking it to the world.
As Kemball-Cook describes his invention: "Every time someone walks on the slab, it converts the kinetic energy from the footstep into electricity, so it is an off-grid power solution within urban spaces and transport infrastructure."
"Ten slabs around a streetlight would power it all night long from the energy generated during the day. You can get 20 or 30 seconds of light from a small light fitting from one footstep. We are working on much bigger systems right now.
Imagine covering Trafalgar Square with these slabs and harnessing all the electricity from the thousands of people who walk across it every day," he added.
The slabs are designed to be retrofitted in place of existing flooring and, being waterproof, can be used inside or outdoors. The power produced can be used to power lights, advertising signs, alarms, music systems or even recharging devices. Display models deliver a weak electric current to power light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
A group of 20 Pavegen slabs will be installed in the center of a giant shopping mall in east London that has recently opened next to the stadium that will host next year's Olympic Games.
As the tens of thousands of people pass through on their way to or from the stadium each day, they will be helping light the mall with every step they take. Another part of the payoff will be helping the owners meet their tough sustainability targets.
Kemball-Cook has his sights set on bigger projects. "We are looking at transport hubs like airports and train stations, shopping malls. The average person walks 1.8 kilometers [1.1 miles] per airport journey. We have tested slabs thoroughly, and they are tough. We have machines that hammer them up to the equivalent of the high millions of footsteps," he said.