Dance the night away and create some electricity

December 8, 2008

by Mark Ollig

I had a feeling this thought-provoking headline might catch someone’s attention.

Alright my faithful readers out there, are you thinking your humble columnist has gone into his midlife trying desperately to turn back the clock and recapture his youth?

Of course I have . . . everyone knows this. But the electricity I want to talk about today is called “piezoelectricity” which can be created using the energy of a moving dance floor.

Some night clubs across the big pond in Europe have special dance floors built with piezoelectrics which absorb and convert the energy from dancing footsteps into electricity. This energy is used to help power the lighting above and on the dance floor.

In the Netherlands a new “eco-nightclub” called “Club Watt” features a piezoelectric dance floor which reportedly generates almost 60 percent of the buildings electricity needs.

Each dancer generated an average of between 5 and 10 watts of power.

In the US, one of these electricity producing dance floors is located at San Francisco’s Temple Nightclub.

One source out of Texas A&M University reports of a Hong Kong gym using the technology to convert energy from exercisers to help power its lights and music.

The definition of piezoelectricity from Wikipedia summarizes it as “the ability of some materials (which includes quartz crystals and ceramics) to generate an electric potential in response to applied ‘mechanical stress.’”

The dance movement on an “eco-dance floor” would equal this mechanical stress.

So, how can electricity be generated by dancing you are asking?

The nightclub’s dance floor is fitted with a built-in “bouncing floor” (stay with me on this) which is made up of heavy springs and rectangular cylinders called “power generating blocks.” These blocks are installed in-between the springs.

The blocks are made with crystals, which will produce a small electrical current when they are compressed – this is the piezoelectricity process in action.

As the dancers continue to do the disco “Hustle” on this unique dance floor, the blocks are squeezed and the resonating causes current to be created which is directly fed into batteries.

The batteries are being constantly charged by the continued movement on the dance floor.

The electricity produced can be used to power the nightclub’s lights and other power requirements which fall within the capabilities of this piezoelectric generation of power.

MSN Encarta explains the “Piezoelectric Effect” as “an appearance of an electric potential across certain faces of a crystal when it is subjected to mechanical pressure.”

Britannica Online says: “When an electric field is applied on certain faces of the crystal, the crystal undergoes “mechanical distortion.”

It was back in 1880 when two French physicists, Pierre Curie and his brother Jacques, discovered this mechanical distortion.

They found a large piezoelectric effect in quartz, which is a crystal and also the major mineral of silicon used in the integrated circuits (chips) of your computer. They also found it in Rochelle salt, a potassium sodium tartrate (salt) which is a crystalline solid.

The brothers’ named this effect “piezoelectricity” from the Greek word “piezein” which means “to press.”

So piezoelectricity has been around for a while.

I do feel piezoelectricity will certainly continue to be used as an alternative eco-power source, especially in today’s green-conscious eco-societal environment.

On this week’s “Web Site of The Week” online forum, I have included full diagrams of this process and also added a video for you to watch.

To see a quick one minute video about the “piezoelectric dance floor” go to http://tinyurl.com/56txbd (YouTube link).

Just as this column is being finished, I was able to download the complete song tracks from the movie album “Saturday Night Fever” into my iPod off of the iTunes web site.

So, the next time you are dancing at your favorite “Retro 70s” discotheque eco-night club, ask them to crank up the disco music of the Bee Gees playing “You Should Be Dancing, “Stayin’ Alive” or “Night Fever.”

Then shake it up, shake it down – and create some piezoelectricity of your own.