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Artificial Trees from OSU Harness Energy from Vibrations


1-s2.0-S0022460X15009141-gr1Artificial trees, inspired by nature, harness the energy of surrounding vibrations- from traffic to earthquakes.

Over the recent years we have covered quite a number of nature-inspired technologies that are truly fascinating. Yes, often they seem to be slightly far-fetched, and probably not so feasible and viable, but they are very often inspirational. New technologies should be showcased (I believe). This is the only way to trigger the creative minds of others, who can think of how to make it better, or why not how to help the inventor bring the technology to the market.

So, here is one of these technologies that I am eager to tell you about, and who knows, maybe you would be the one funding its mass-production. It comes from a team at Ohio State University, and it is essentially a nature-inspired artificial leafless tree that produces energy from surrounding vibrations.

The tree-shaped structure was specifically chosen for its properties. If made out of electromechanical materials, it can turn any vibrations into electricity. These include wind, footsteps on bridges, and even earthquakes.

According to the team, every building moves slightly due to wind, while every bridge vibrates when cars move on it. This kinetic energy is lost, and the researchers decided that this should no longer be the case.

This technology is the first of its kind that shows statistically that it could be used. The team carried out a series of simulation models and small-scale tests in order to prove it. The first prototypes of the technology, which are mostly used as proof-of-concept for now, managed to produce around 2 volts of electricity.

The researchers say that these artificial trees are not going to be suitable for large scale energy production. They also do not imagine that they will appear everywhere. In fact, they believe that the technology would work best in areas where no other renewable energy source would- like bridges or next to buildings, to power integrity-measuring sensors.

The next step in front of the team is to increase the voltage and scale the technology up. Based on their initial findings, they state with confidence that one day this technology will be a reliable source of energy.

Image (c) Journal of Sound and Vibration/ Ohio State University

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