After modifying Israeli highways to produce energy from piezoelectric pads installed beneath the asphalt, Innowattech, an Israel-based company, now applied their technology on railroads.
Simply, what they did was replacing 32 existing railway pads with their own piezoelectric IPEG PADs. Having the same shape as the original railway pad, the IPEG can easily be deployed onto existing railway infrastructure. Unlike their hundred-year-old relatives, the new pads are embedded with piezoelectric elements.
In addition to producing energy, the IPEG pads can also determine the size of the wheel that just passed, the speed of the train and the weight of each wheel.
A prototype system installed last year with Technion University and Israel Railways has shown that a railway track with a traffic of 10 to 20 ten-car trains an hour can harvest as much as 120 kWh, which could be used to power infrastructural elements such as signaling lights or can be uploaded to the grid.
Recovering the mechanical energy from a system can lead to the thought that it’s the same if we powered those consumers with energy directly extracted from the grid. The fact is that there are a lot of elements leading to inefficiency in a train, just like in anything that moves.
Those inefficiencies can be partly recovered by such systems, and though it’s not “free” energy, the power that these piezoelectric pads output is just as valuable as building more efficient engines for the trains.