New study shows trains could produce electricity
If you’re one of thousands of people who rode a train in Virginia recently, you probably know the sensation of being rocked back and forth, and the clickety-clack sound as the train made contact with the rails. A new study shows that the energy trains make as they move could be tapped as a potential source of electricity.
“If you think about it, by virtue of their movement, they will generate a fair amount of energy or dynamics, or vibrations,” said Mehdi Ahmadian, chair of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and director of the Railway Technologies Laboratory. He’s leading a team of researchers who are working to harness that energy.
“What if we are able to capture some of the vibrations and convert that into electrical energy," said Mehdi Ahmadian.
He and his team have developed a railroad tie that collects this energy. Norfolk-Southern Railroad allowed them to place a prototype on their rail line last year to measure the success. So far, the results have shown that a train with 100 railcars produces four kilowatts of electricity each time it passes over one of these ties, which could be used to power smart rail technology, which include safety equipment and communications systems.
“I am personally optimistic and hopeful that somewhere in the range of about three-four years, this will be a commercial product and we’ll be able to serve the U.S. railroads,” Ahmadian said.
Ahmadian said that while Virginia Tech isn’t in the business of manufacturing products to sell, they are in conversations with companies that make railroad ties, which are interested in acquiring this technology.
Editor's Note: Radio IQ is a service of Virginia Tech.