Saturday, March 25, 2023

Harvesting Energy From Moving Trains

By Jay Soni

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Researchers have found a way to harvest electromagnetic energy from rail transportations.

Yang Chen inspects an energy-harvesting rail in the Railway Technologies Laboratory. Credit: Alex Parrish for Virginia Tech.

Driving trains using the concept of magnetic levitation has been fantasized over a long time. It has been demonstrated in several sci-fi movies but looking back to the actual interpretation of technology can not be implemented all together. The power needed to levitate a train at high speed is possible but not for slower speed and to the vehicle to take-off. Though researchers have discovered some other uses for magnetism in railways.

The Virginia Tech Center for Vehicle Systems and Safety (CVeSS) and the Railway Technologies Laboratory want to harness the energy created by moving trains and transform that energy into usable electricity. After several years of design review, CVeSS researchers created a new kind of tie that replaces the conventional wooden variety and is equipped to generate power. Their high-tech tie, placed underneath the rail, is topped with a heavy metal bar mounted on a spring. As the wheels of the train pass over the rail, the train’s weight pushes down on that bar, triggering a series of gears. Those gears rotate a generator, creating electricity, which can then be stored in a battery.

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As trains passed over the rail, researchers got a clearer picture of how much power it might produce and how that power might be put into use. “For every wheel of the train that goes by, we are harvesting 15 to 20 watts of power,” said Ahmadian. “If we have a long train with maybe 200 railcars, that’s 800 wheels, making 1.6 kilowatts. Once we have stored that energy, we are able to use it to make the tracks more intelligent by embedding sensors in them.” Deploying their energy harvesting system could mean greater expansion of the vital sensor systems that keep railways safe.

Reference : Yu Pan et al, A half-wave electromagnetic energy-harvesting tie towards safe and intelligent rail transportation, Applied Energy (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2022.118844


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