Harvesting Energy from Passing Trains

December 20, 2010
By: Kevin Hattori

Innowattech, the Israeli company that made news last year when it unveiled a method for harvesting electricity from roads, is at it again. This time, the company co-founded by Technion Professor Haim Abramovich is testing its piezoelectric technology on railroad tracks.

In conjunction with Israel’s National Railway Company, the company replaced 32 existing railroad pads with Innowattech’s electricity-generating pads to measure how well they produce electricity. The technology is based upon the piezoelectric effect, the production of electricity that occurs when certain materials — including crystals and some ceramics — are deformed.

train

“Our pads contain piezoelectric disks, which can transform mechanical stresses into electrical output (voltage),” says Abramovich. “As a result, not only can we harvest energy, we can also gather information that includes train speed, the number of wheels on the train, weight of each wheel, wheel diameter, and wheel perimeter position.

According to Abramovich, preliminary results suggest that areas of railway track that get between 10 and 20 ten-car trains an hour can produce 120 KWh of renewable energy per hour, which could be used to help power trains and/or signals, or be routed to the power grid for use elsewhere.

Innowattech is based in Ra’anana, Israel, with research facilities at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The privately held company specializes in the development of custom piezoelectric generators for specific purposes.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel’s leading science and technology university. Home to the country’s first winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel’s high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with offices around the country.