Energy Harvesting from Railway Track Vibrations

Railroad transportation, including the commuter rail and subway, plays a very important role in the economy and quality of life for the people in the University Transportation Research Center.Region 2 area (UTRC2). About two-thirds of all U.S. passenger rail riders, and one in every three U.S. mass transit users, ride trains in the New York Metropolitan Region. To facilitate policy makers and transportation agencies to make informed decisions on operating and managing the region's transportation system, electric infrastructures are needed along the railway tracks, such as the signal lights, road crossing gates, wireless communication, train and track monitoring, positive train control, etc. Unfortunately, the cost-effective and reliable power supply needed for the electrical infrastructures remains a challenge, particularly for the UTRC2 region since a significant portion of the rails are in underground tunnels, on bridges, or in relatively remote areas where the energy needed to power electric infrastructure is uneconomical to install and maintain. This absence of cost-effective electrical supply leads to the absence or failure of railway electrical infrastructures, resulting in service disruptions, inefficient transportation management, or severe train accidents. This project aims at developing an advanced technology of energy harvesting from railway track vibrations to meet the regional and industry-wide need of access to cost-effective and reliable power supply for the trackside electrical infrastructures of rail transportation. The proposed method is to systematically design and integrate an innovative motion mechanism, flywheel, electric generator, power electronics and energy storage to produce high-quality direct current (DC) power of up to 200 watts average from the irregular and pulse-like track deflections. The project focuses on the technical innovations of (1) changing the up-and-down vibration into unidirectional rotation of the electrical generator, and (2) creatively integrating the flywheel into the energy harvesting system to ensure high-efficient energy conversion and stable power output. The proposed study offers a game-changing technology for energy harvesting, with significant advantages over the traditional energy harvesting for railway applications, including (1) directly generating high-quality DC power without electrical rectifier in the vibration environment; (2) enabling the electrical generator to work in a more efficient speed region; (3) changing the negative influence of motion inertia into positive, thus reducing mechanical stress and increasing system reliability. The proposed motion transmission is essentially a "mechanical rectifier" and the flywheel and other inertia corresponds to the electrical capacitor used in the power regulator. Such a design enables the full use of the pulse-like features of track vibration: high vertical velocity in short intermittent durations when the wheels roll over the track. Junior faculty Professor Lei Zuo at Stony Brook University will lead a team composed of graduate and undergraduate students in the research. The technical concept has been verified in a proof-of-concept small prototype recently developed by the principal investigator (PI). Through collaboration with transportation agency MTA New York City Transit and a private company, Electric Truck LLC, the team plans to develop and demonstrate the innovative energy harvesting technology to produce long-term savings, safety, operation and management benefits to transit and rail transportation in UTRC Region 2 and nationwide.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $106043.00
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    University Transportation Centers Program
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Mooney, Deborah

  • Performing Organizations:

    State University of New York, Stony Brook

    Stony Brook University
    Stony Brook, NY  United States  11794
  • Principal Investigators:

    Zuo, Lei

  • Start Date: 20111101
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20130731
  • Source Data: RiP Project 29293

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01467836
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: University Transportation Research Center
  • Contract Numbers: 49111-31-21
  • Files: UTC, RIP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 3:40PM