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Project Type
UTRC Advanced Technology Initiative
Project Dates
11/01/2011 - 07/31/2013
Principal Investigators
Project Status

Project Highlights

Executive Summary

The railroad transportation, including the commuter rail and subway, plays a very important role in the economy and quality of life for the people in UTRC2 area. About two-thirds of all U.S. passenger rail riders, and one in every three U.S. mass transit users, rides 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 significant portion of the rails are in the underground tunnels, on the bridges, or in relative remote areas, where the energy needed to power electric infrastructure is uneconomical to install and maintain. Thus absence of costeffective 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 track-side electrical infrastructures of rail transportation. The proposed method is to systematically design and integrate an innovative motion mechanism, fly wheel, electric generator, power electronics and energy storage to produce high-quality DC power 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 fly wheel into the energy harvesting system to ensure high-efficient energy conversion and stable power output.

The proposed study offers a game-changing technology of 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 electrical generator to work in more efficient speed region; (3) changing the negative influence of motion inertia into positive, and thus reducing the mechanical stress and increase the system reliability. The proposed motion transmission is essentially a “mechanical rectifier” and the fly wheel and other inertia corresponds to the electrical capacitor used in power regulator. Such a design enables us to make 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 Prof 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 proofof- concept small prototype recently developed by the PI. Through the 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 saving, safety, operation and management benefits to transit and rail transportation in UTRC Region 2 and national wide.

This project was cosponsored by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation through the University Transportation Centers program.