Viridian Note 00276: Khaki Green Power Boots

Bruce Sterling <>
16 Oct 2001 19:51:03 -0000

Key concepts: powered footwear, piezoelectrics, military repurposing, khaki green

Attention Conservation Notice: It's about a favorite Viridian gizmo now re-appearing in military guise.

I'm back from Atlanta. Travel is very broadening.

Kenneth Huff was at the Atlanta Artscape outdoor show. He's got a very "transorganic" computer art thing going on.

Sally J. Bright weaves rattan into non-CAD para-baskets that might be best described as "folk blobjects."

This is so "us." A solar-powered latte frother.

Holy mackerel, look at those tensegrity tables. How do you clean them? What if the cat gets stuck?

Brooks Brothers has a nifty line of upscale weatherproof mens' wear called "BrooksStorm(R)". They don't look like products for savage climate change, yet they happen to be waterproof and windproof.

(((The piezoelectric boot has been a Viridian darling for years now. Unsurprisingly, these "imaginary products" suddenly have a military app and a paramilitary think tank involved. Production marches forth!))) edge011012.html

"These Boots Are Made for Power Energetic Walking Could One Day Juice Your Gadgets

By Paul Eng

"Oct. 12 == There are boots for wading, walking, hiking
and skiing. But how about boots for power?"


  • NBC Employee Tests Positive for Anthrax
  • New Indictment in Terror Probe
  • Attacks Resume Over Afghan Capital
(((Normally I cut this webclutter when I quote news stories to Viridian List, but this is valuable social context here.)))

     "SRI International, a research firm in Menlo Park, Calif., is working with the Defense Department to create a shoe that will convert the mechanical energy of walking into electric power to charge up gadgets, batteries and other devices. (((Go to and look up "Bayliss," "Texon" and "Gershenfeld".)))

     "At the heart, or rather sole, of the experimental foot-ware (((nice coinage there, "footware"))) is a heel made of a special elastic polymer. A tiny battery positively charges one side of the flexible material and the other negatively. As the material is compressed and released == such as by the foot pressure generated during walking == the distance between the positive and negative sides change, which in turn creates electricity.

     "According to Ron Pelgrine, the director for SRI

International's Advanced Transducers Program, the
prototype boot generates about half a watt of power ==
more than enough energy to recharge the boot's built-in
battery and a cell phone. But Pelgrine hopes that by the
end of January the boot's output could be raised to nearly
two watts which is enough juice to power several small
electronic devices == a cell phone, a handheld computer,
and a radio == simultaneously.

Link: Nice associated article and a pic of Ron here. He looks pretty much like you'd expect. stories/2001/05/05292001/pelectrid_43666.asp

     "And that kind of potential could be reached since the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has funded about $2.6 million to SRI International's research under a project called Energy Harvesting.

Link: Renewable energy derived from "soldier heel strike." People who aren't in the military-entertainment complex call that "walking." DARPA Energy Harvesting is also into renewable military-app energy from deep ocean currents, thermoelectric materials, chemical gradients in ocean sediments, hydrogen production via enzymes, and solar. Until today I'd never heard of 'em, but those have all been Viridian topics and subjects of our Notes.

     "The goal of DARPA's project is to develop unconventional energy sources to power a future soldier's equipment such as radios and electronic gun sights. By harvesting power generated by walking, soldiers of the future won't have carry as many batteries and will have more room for other supplies such as ammunition and food.

     "Smarter Combat Boots, Quieter Generators

     "Pelgrine says that SRI's boots would also provide for even 'smarter' foot-ware for the common ground- pounder. 'The power can be used for devices on the boot such as navigation aides, electronic functions that will tell you how far you've walked and monitor your health,' he said.

     "What's more, Pelgrine says the power-generating polymers could be used in other places outside of the shoe.

     "For example, a portable gas-powered motor could flex a lightweight polymer instead of cranking a conventional magnet- and metal-based generator. That would make a portable electric generator not only lighter, but quite possibly quieter since there are fewer moving parts. (((Hmmm.)))

     "'These polymers can be used anywhere you need to generate power,' says Pelgrine.

     "Pelgrine is quick to warn that it will still take quite some time before we see people plugging into their shoes for juice, however. Specific design issues, such as how to pack the polymers and electronics into an easy to manufacture material, still need to be worked out. ((("War is the health of the state," Ron; keep plugging.)))

     "Pelgrine estimates that the earliest we may see power-generating foot-ware hit the streets would be in two years." (((Well, Trevor Bayliss has been at the same job for quite some time already, without the American taxpayer behind him; the first time we Viridians get our feet into "footware," it may be military-surplus.)))

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