Technology Harvests Energy from Railroad Train Vibrations

Stony Brook University engineers have won a national award. The award was entitled” Energy Harvesting” at the Energy Harvesting and Storage USA 2012 conference.

The group researched process and equipment to create an energy harvester that converts the irregular, oscillatory motion of that trains make as they travel over rail track. The system converts the vibrations into regular, unidirectional motion, in the same way that an electric voltage rectifier converts AC voltage into DC.

Top savings from the installation and use of the new invention…according to the researchers…,

save more than $10 million in trackside power supply costs for railroads in New York State alone.

along with a reduction of 3000 tons per year of CO2

and a half million dollars of electricity savings.

“With the MMR design, the technology advances the traditional energy harvesting, including directly generating high-quality DC power without an electrical rectifier in the vibration environment; enabling an electrical generator to rotate in one direction with relative steady speed in a more efficient speed region; and changing the negative influence of motion inertia into positive, thus reducing the mechanical stress and increasing system reliability,” he said. “Such a design not only avoids the challenges of friction and impact induced by oscillation motion, but also enables us to make full use of the pulse-like features of track vibration to harvest more energy.”says Professor Zuo

Here’s the abstract of the presented paper. The blog will finish reading the paper and update this post with images and extracts.


Anelectromagnetic energy harvester is designed to harness the vibrational power from railroad track deflections due to passing trains. Whereas typical existing vibration energy harvester technologies are built for low power applications of milliwatts range, the proposed harvester will be designed for higher power applications for major track-side equipment such as warning signals, switches, and health monitoring sensors, which typically require a power supply of 10 Watts or more. To achieve this goal, we implement a new patent pending motion conversion mechanism which converts irregular pulse-like bidirectional linear vibration into regulated unidirectional rotational motion. Features of the motion mechanism include bidirectional to unidirectional conversion and flywheel speed regulation, with advantages of improved reliability, efficiency, and quality of output power. It also allows production of DC power directly from bidirectional vibration without electronic diodes. Preliminary harvester prototype testing results illustrate the features and benefits of the proposed motion mechanism, showing reduction of continual system loading, regulation of generator speed, and capability for continuous DC power generation.
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