The "Crowd Farm" technology works something like this: A responsive sub-flooring system is placed under, say, the platform of a subway terminal. The blocks that make up the system would depress slightly under the force of human footsteps. As the blocks slip against each other, they generate power in the form of an electric current.
According to its developers, the electric current could be used, among other things, to light up signs about the energy created by the pedestrians.
"We want people to understand the direct relationship between their movement and the energy produced," said co-creator Thaddeus Jusczyk.
While the Crowd Farm wouldn't work in the home (a single human step generates only enough power to light two 60-watt light bulbs for one second), it could draw power from a crowd producing thousands of steps.
Some 28,527 steps, for example, could power an entire moving train for a second, the scientists said.
The Crowd Farm could also be used to harness the head-bashing energy at a rock concert, they added.