Small vibrations that already occur in the modern world could help leafless mechanical tree-like structures generate electricity and harvest green energy, according to scientists.
In a new research – published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration – a team of scientists found that mechanical ‘trees’ may be able to generate electricity if they are shaken slightly.
The electricity generation could be set off by things like: traffic on a bridge, the wind, seismic activity, a skyscraper swaying, and so on. The key is in the vibrations, scientists explained.
Scientist will use sensitive electromechanical materials to build the tree-like units, which will look like a trunk with several branches. When random vibrations reach the mechanical trees, the tree-like structures will convert them into stronger vibrations. These will eventually be used to produce electricity, according to the team of scientists.
Project leader Dr. Ryan Harne, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at The Ohio State University and director of the Laboratory of Sound and Vibration Research, said that bridges oscillate when people drive on them, buildings sway slightly when the wind blows, car suspensions absorb bumps in the road, and all of these create slight vibrations.
The new projects intends to recover and use some of the kinetic energy that is associated with all of the aforementioned motions, and more, Dr. Harne explained.
In the past, scientists said that random vibrations were too inconsistent to help generate electricity. However, Dr. Harne thinks otherwise. He used a mathematical model and found that the mechanical trees could maintain consistent vibrations coming from various sources.
To test their findings, scientists built a mechanical tree prototype. Then, they added noise to the system – which created “saturation phenomena.” The high frequency energy was channelled into a low frequency oscillation. Scientists found that low frequency was more conductive to electricity generation, producing more than double the voltage.
Dr. Harne, and his colleagues and co-authors on the paper, Anqi Sun and Kon-Well Wang of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said that the mechanical trees could prove useful for electricity generation, when other green options cannot do the job.
For instance, windmills need wind in order to spin efficiently, and they also have to be located in wide open space. However, mechanical trees could work in busy metropolitan areas, perhaps attached to a tall building, or to the bottom of a bridge, the scientists explained.
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