Researchers Capture Energy from Trains in Motion

Using energy from moving trains, researchers have found a way to power track lights, cross gates and switches, and this alternative energy source could save millions.

by / November 29, 2012

There are still alternative energy sources yet untapped, as researchers at New York's Stony Brook University recently demonstrated. A new device headed to the marketplace harvests the erratic, pulse-like energy created by a train in motion, using it to power the train's electrical infrastructure. A report in GizMag compares the mechanical motion rectifier-based railroad energy harvester to an electric voltage rectifier, which converts alternating current into direct current.

Professor Lei Zuo, who led graduate students in developing the device told GizMag that it could make a significant impact on the energy usage of the 140,700 miles of train tracks in the United States. "It is very important but also very costly to power the track-side electrical infrastructure, such as the signal lights, cross gates, track switches and monitoring sensors. Our invention can harness 200 watts of electric energy from train-induced track deflections to power the track-side electrical devices.”

According to Zuo, installing the device on train tracks could save $500,000 annually in New York alone and reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tons. The research team has licensed the technology to a private company in order to bring it to market.