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Stony Brook Gets Award for Piezoelectric Railroad Energy Harvestor


Engineers at Stony Brook University in New York have won a national award for developing an energy harvestor that significantly reduces railroads’ carbon dioxide emissions. The harvestor may even save $10 million in New York trackside power supply costs and has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide by 3000 tons per year, equating to a savings of $500,000.

The invention capitalizes on the length of United States rail tracks. The US has over 140,700 miles worth of tracks, and Stony Brook engineers realized that by creating a Mechanical Motion Rectifier (MMR) they can harvest 200 watts of electric energy from train-induced deflections. This powers the track-side electrical infrastructure: cross gates, monitoring sensors, track switches, and cross gates can all be powered by the harvested energy.

The harvestor design is innovative because it increases energy efficiency and stable power output. The MMR expands the energy converting efficiency to over 70% by using a one shaft design.

The Stony Brook engineers are no strangers to awards. In 2010, the engineers won an award for Best Technology Development of Energy Harvesting.  In 2011, the engineers won the R&D 100 Award, better known to industry insiders as the ‘Oscar of Invention’ for creating a retrofitted energy-harvesting shock absorber that can harvest between 100 and 400 watts from vehicle vibrations. Clearly Stony Brook University is on the cutting edge of energy harvesting.

[via Science Daily]

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