Future Bites / Technology

Grabbing Free Energy from Train Tracks

It’s not exactly breaking news that freight trains produce enormous vibrations.  But until now, it’s never occurred to me that it might be possible to capture that vibrational energy and convert it to electricity.

train disappearing into tunnel

Courtesy Gopal Aggarwal

From NBC News’ FutureTech, engineering professor Lei Zuo has invented a device to do just that.  It attaches to the tracks and mechanically converts the up-and-down motion of the rails to a cyclical motion, which then drives a generator.  Naturally, the electricity is used to power lights and signals along the track.  Zuo estimates deploying this system could annually reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tons and  save $10 million in electricity costs – and that’s just in New York State alone!

To be sure, this by itself isn’t going to put a stop to the flood of non-renewable energy leaving our planet forever.  But the more leaks we can plug, the better off we’ll be.  Check out the original story for more.

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