Mechanical Trees That Wave Up Power

5  March 2016


Mechanical Trees That Wave Up Power

The natural sound of a strong breeze blowing a huge tree is something we might remember from our childhood when we’d often play outside in the summer, but what if we could harvest energy from that movement?

The State University of Ohio seems to think that swaying motion can be harvested and converted into energy. The university has an entire team of engineers working on the project. It plans to build structures which resemble trees, and much like a wind turbine, convert some energy from the motion and turn it into electricity or similar power source. But the university’s quest is not just to harvest energy from mechanical swaying trees but bridges and buildings too.

It’s widely known in architecture that tall buildings actually sway on a windy day. An example of this can be found when you are in an apartment on the top floor of a condo tower, or any floor about the 25th level, and you fill the bathroom sink with water and watch it gently sway in the basin.

You will also wander why the authorities close bridges when a storm is due; a long bridge can actually oscillate in extreme weather and there is footage that exists somewhere of a bridge behaving more like a skipping rope being spun by two schoolchildren in the old school yard. The university looked at a series of motions which vibrate, move and create structural kinetic energy.

The Laboratory of Vibration, Sound and Motion Research noted that so much of this energy is actually lost into the ether. Each time your vehicle drives over a speed bump in the road the shock absorbers use an energy to cushion the car, so why not discover a way of harvesting all that lost energy and convert it into something like electricity?

The university wants to recover some of that lost energy and recycle it, but it could be a while before we start to see mechanical trees popping up everywhere like we do nowadays with wind turbines.

Buildings and bridges will use the lost energy to keep a check on its structure, rather than power up an entire village or small town. The scenario will be small scale at first before the lost energy can be converted into something more useful but the idea will be pleasing to those who believe turbines are a blight on any landscape.