Billed as Brazil’s first player-powered soccer pitch, a field inaugurated Wednesday in a Rio de Janeiro slum harnesses the kinetic energy of players’ movements to provide nighttime illumination.
Soccer legend Pele was on hand for the pomp-filled event in the Morro da Mineira slum, which saw a local youth team put the system to the test.
Under the project, sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell, around 200 energy-capturing tiles developed by British startup Pavegen were installed the width and breadth of the field and covered by a layer of AstroTurf. Working in conjunction with solar panels also installed around the field, the player-powered tiles feed electricity to a system of floodlights overhead.
While the head of Pavegen, engineer Laurence Kemball-Cook, took pains not to reveal the exact science behind the tiles, his father and the company’s chairman, Richard Kemball-Cook, said they use a system of cogs. When stepped on, the cogs spin like tops and act like generators, he said.
Each tile now costs about $500, but the price is falling as the 35-employee company refines its manufacturing process, Kemball-Cook said.
Pavegen has installed similar tiles in train stations in Europe, shopping centers in Australia and Terminal 3 of London’s Heathrow Airport, Laurence Kemball-Cook said, but the soccer field is a first.
“We’ve effectively turned this community into a real-life science experiment,” he said. “I believe this technology can be one of the future ways we illuminate our cities.”
Pele got emotional over the project, tearing up as he said he hoped the new field would help spark local kids’ interest not only in soccer but in science.
“My father named me Edson after Thomas Edison,” said the longtime star striker, whose birth name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento.
He said he hopes the next generation of Brazilians will help bring the country as much success in science as it has had in soccer.
“I’m sure that soon the No. 1 scientists in the world are going to be Brazilians,” Pele said as he brushed aside a tear.
The Morro da Mineira project is part of the Shell #makethefuture programme, which aims to inspire young people and entrepreneurs to look at science and engineering as a career choice, and in particular use their minds to develop energy solutions for the future of the planet.
André Araujo, Shell Brazil Country Chair, said: “By 2050, the world will be using 75 per cent more energy than it does now. Meeting that extra demand will require a set of energy sources – and a new generation of scientists and engineers with the passion, ideas and innovation to develop it.”
Mr Araujo also explained: “The pitch proves the potential and power when scientists and entrepreneurs focus their efforts to develop creative and innovative energy solutions. By tapping into the world’s passion and interest in football, we aim to capture the attention of youngsters around the world so they think differently about energy and the opportunity of science studies and careers.”
Pelé who joined Shell to officially open the pitch, said: “Football is Brazil’s biggest passion and the sport has gone through so much technological innovation since the last time I played. This new pitch shows the extraordinary things possible when science and sport come together. The Morro da Mineira community will now be able to use this sports facility as a safe gathering place – all thanks to the floodlights powered by the community’s football players.”