Calgary Folk Festival vibrations harnessed to power LED lights

Posted by CBC News Calgary on 26 July 2015

 As the Calgary Folk Music Festival shook up Prince's Island this weekend, some of the energy on stage was being "harvested" in the name of research. 

Natalie Robertson, a graduate student in the University of Calgary's faculty of environmental design, has created what she calls "energy harvesters."

Researcher Natalie Robertson is experimenting with vibration-sensitive sensors that can harvest enough energy to power lights. (CBC)

As the musicians perform, the 70 sensors she installed under the stage pick up those good vibrations.

"Converting it to electrical current, funneling it into a battery, and then at night, when we actually need lights, we flip the switch, we have the power for the lights," she said.

The lights are 113 LED bulbs set up in an artistic-looking display beside the stage.

Robertson says the sensors can actually pick up just about any movement. 

"If the wind was blowing at night, it's still, like they're very, very sensitive," she said.

Ultimately, Robertson hopes the technology will be used in all active city spaces.

She says our bridges and highways could easily be lit by the energy of people moving on them.

"I would love infrastructure to be electrically self-sufficient, so if there's a flood, or there's a fire, or God forbid a terrorist attack, that the city doesn't go black."

The Folk Fest's stage generated about an hour's worth of light through Robertson's sensors.

That eco-power will be put on display as the lights are switched on after the last show on Sunday night.