Kennedy Space Center takes a step toward the future with human-powered energy

by Brittani Tuttle
kennedy space center

A section of the PZ tiles can be viewed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Science is making new leaps at Kennedy Space Center, as human-powered energy harvesting is going through trials, thanks to technology created and developed by Georgia Tech Research Institute.

A prototype section of Piezoelectric, or PZ, enabled walkway tiles has been installed at the front entrance of the visitor complex at the Space Center in order to be tested out by guests. The PZ tiles generate electricity through the human-powered energy harvesting when they are walked upon, and will eventually be installed throughout the visitor complex.

“Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is at the epicenter of real, cutting edge implementation and application of new technologies,” said Therrin Protze, the COO of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “Our work with Georgia Tech Research Institute allows our guests to be a part of these new scientific advancements.”

As they are stepped on, the PZ tiles light up to show guests that they are generating electricity and power. Piezoelectricity is, according to Kennedy Space Center, “the conversion of mechanical stress into electrical energy, while also converting electric signals into mechanical stress.” By using the properties of piezoelectric energy in areas that receive human contact, such as roadways or floors, vehicular vibrations and human movement can be converted into electrical energy.

“We are honored to work with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to showcase such an innovative use of piezoelectricity. Our goal is to not only create an exciting adventure for space center visitors, but also to help the public gain an understanding of real-life applications of sustainable technologies,” said Dr. Ilan Stern, Georgia Tech Research Institute senior research scientist.

Once fully installed at the Space Center Visitor Complex, the PZ walkway will be the first implementation of human energy harvesting technology, and will serve as data to be collected for future installations.

The tiles also have a fun side to their practical purpose, as they will generate stepping patterns for interactive games that visitors can play. A smartphone application will also be available to let guests learn more about the project and those involved in developing the technology, as well as alternative energy harvesting methods.

Tickets to the Kennedy Space Center are $50 plus tax for adults, and $40 plus tax for children ages 3-11. Annual passes are also available starting at $75 plus tax for adults and $60 plus tax for children. For more information, visit kennedyspacecenter.com.


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