Engineers from Stony Brook University in New York have invented a technology for harvesting energy from the vibration of railroads that can be used to help railroad companies save millions in energy costs. The Stony Brook team, led by Professor Lei Zuo and two graduate students Teng Lin and John Wang from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, developed an energy harvester that converts the irregular, oscillatory motion of train-induced rail track vibrations into regular, unidirectional motion, in the same way that an electric voltage rectifier converts AC voltage into DC.
Zuo estimates that the invention – the Mechanical Motion Rectifier (MMR) based Railroad Energy Harvester – could save more than $10 million in trackside power supply costs for railroads in New York State alone, along with a reduction of 3,000 tons per year of CO2 and a half million dollars of electricity savings.
The US has the longest rail tracks in the world, about 140,700 miles – often in remote areas. It is costly to power the track-side electrical infrastructure, such as the signal lights, cross gates, track switches and monitoring sensors. The MMR based Railroad Energy Harvester can harness 200 watts of electric energy from train-induced track deflections to power the track-side electrical devices.
The technology of the MMR based Railroad Energy Harvester has been licensed to Electric Truck/Harvest NRG.
The Stony Brook engineers were awarded “Best Application of Energy Harvesting” at the Energy Harvesting and Storage USA 2012 conference in Washington, DC, Nov. 7-8.