Windmills and turbines have been “hip” since the emergence of the concept of renewable energy, and people have looking to enhance the efficiency and production of these machines. Now, a team of researchers and engineers have dared to think out of the box, and rather than simply creating a different type of fan shape or extending the length of the pole; they have changed the concept of harnessing power via wind.
In an ingenious attempt, the team has come up with a concept called leafless artificial trees, which can generate renewable power when they are shaken by the wind. The study was published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration, which laid the cornerstone for this design. In the study, Ohio State University engineers discovered some new ways vibrations occur when the wind passes through artificial tree-shaped figures.
Ryan Harne, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at OSU said in an interview “Buildings sway ever so slightly in the wind, bridges oscillate when we drive on them and car suspensions absorb bumps in the road. There’s a massive amount of kinetic energy associated with those motions that is otherwise lost. We want to recover and recycle some of that energy.”
The team firstly build an artificial tree made of steel beams which were connected by a strip of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). Upon placing the tree on a loosely held bench, it was observed that the PVDF generated a voltage of about 0.8 volts from the motion of the bench. Despite the randomness of the motion, they found a way to harness and produce a consistent frequency voltage, which is quite a remarkable achievement in itself.
The concept was to use certain electromechanical materials which possess the ability to convert forces like winds into strong vibrations. Then this special material was used to produce the leafless tree, which in turn, generated electricity.
This technology has many applications, one of them being used in fueling sensors for monitoring vibrations passing through different mechanical structures. The vibrations are used to recover energy in order to power the sensors installed to determine the constructional soundness and integrity of bridges or buildings etc. The technology makes the entire system self-sufficient by being able to charge itself using the wind or vibrations caused by cars driving along it.
Harne commented that their project utilizes all sorts of vibration energies available out there, whether it is coming from humans, some automobiles or seismic and wind-induced movements that normally occur around us everyday. And the concept proposes a valuable alternative in the industry of renewable energy sources that can produce electricity that is cheaper and more efficient.
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