Environment

T-box concept to capture wind energy from trains

The T-box concept would be installed between railway sleepers, and would harness the wind of passing trains to generate electricity (All images courtesy of Qian Jiang)
The T-box concept would be installed between railway sleepers, and would harness the wind of passing trains to generate electricity (All images courtesy of Qian Jiang)
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Installation and usage of the T-box
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Installation and usage of the T-box
The final rendering of the T-box concept
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The final rendering of the T-box concept
Making a scale model from 3D renderings
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Making a scale model from 3D renderings
Exploring different designs
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Exploring different designs
Explaining the how and why
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Explaining the how and why
Some background information on why the designers created the T-box
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Some background information on why the designers created the T-box
T-box devices would be placed between railway sleepers - with about 150 devices installed per kilometer
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T-box devices would be placed between railway sleepers - with about 150 devices installed per kilometer
The T-box concept would be installed between railway sleepers, and would harness the wind of passing trains to generate electricity (All images courtesy of Qian Jiang)
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The T-box concept would be installed between railway sleepers, and would harness the wind of passing trains to generate electricity (All images courtesy of Qian Jiang)
The scale model on display for the 2010 Lite-On Awards, where it took silver
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The scale model on display for the 2010 Lite-On Awards, where it took silver

As anyone living near railway tracks will tell you, speeding trains generate quite a bit of wind as they whoosh past. Industrial designers Qian Jiang and Alessandro Leonetti Luparini have come up with a device that's installed between the sleepers on a track, and as the train passes overhead, the wind drives a turbine to generate electricity. The T-box devices could be placed along railway or subway lines, and make good use of an otherwise wasted resource.

Unlike innovations such as the Solar Roadways project and Solar Wind concept, the T-box device wouldn't have to depend on a natural energy source, but instead one that is produced as a consequence of human activity. China's Jiang and Italy's Luparini reckon that about 150 of these devices could be installed along a kilometer (0.62 miles) of track and as a train speeds along, the turbines inside the device would generate electricity.

T-box devices would be placed between railway sleepers - with about 150 devices installed per kilometer
T-box devices would be placed between railway sleepers - with about 150 devices installed per kilometer

The designers say that the turbine is based on models produced by Hetronix, although the blades are obviously designed to rotate about a central axis within the cylinder housing. Much of the T-box would be below ground level with only the vent showing, and even though the wind produced by passing trains may only come in short bursts, installing them along a busy route should result in a decent amount of energy being produced.

Of course, keeping these babies clean and safe could be a problem. In addition to the dust and debris kicked up as the train speeds along or grime and grease deposits escaping from underneath, protecting such shiny boxes from the destructive hands of vandals could prove somewhat tiresome.

The final rendering of the T-box concept
The final rendering of the T-box concept

However, it's an appealing concept with huge potential for further development. The T-box design took silver in last year's Lite-On awards and was exhibited in Xuexue Institute, Taipei during the summer.

T-BOX-2010_liteonaward

Via Yanko

32 comments
Gadgeteer
Dumb. An occasional train rushes through. From each passage, a tiny fraction of the wind energy might be recoverable. Untold millions of dollars per mile for what, a few kilowatt hours per month? And that\'s an extremely optimistic estimate.
Steve Bennett
The question is: is this more cost-effective than harnessing natural sources of wind? It would be hard to believe - but presumably they have done their sums.
abe
Gadgeteer, I couldn\'t agree more. What a waste of resources, use the same turbines in a place that the wind always blows. Also, I would imagine that you are causing wind resistance.
D.Advocate
Long time reader/imaginer, first time poster... The point is not whether this product is cost efficient yet or not. The point should be how can they improve and go on from here. @Abe: some subways run 24 hours a day 7 days a week, i dont know any other place on earth with as measurable a consistent wind as that. everything can be geared to that specific tunnel and the speeds they know they travel. @Gadgeteer: i agree long distance trains would not be feasible. focus should be on subways... improvements always need to be made. But this is the first article on a new tech, why shoot it down before it is made better?
Gavrilo Bozovic
As much as I agree with Gadgeteer and Abe, there is a fundamental point that this article is missing: if you tap into this energy, you will increase the resistance that the train is experiencing. It will only be a tiny increase, but then again you will only produce a tiny amount of energy. Basically, people: YOU CAN\'T GET SOMETHING FOR NOTHING!! If you use the heat of your feet to charge your mobile phone, you\'ll be cooling your feet, if you use the energy of your steps to do so, you will require more energy to walk, if you extract the energy of the vibrations of rails, you will introduce an extra elasticity in the system, requiring more energy for the train running on them! Ultimately, it all comes down to the second law of thermodynamics - as always.
oracle
This type of projects puts us Product Designers to shame. On train tracks, it would produce one super tiny amount of electrical energy, and would only pay for itself long after it turned to dust. On subway tracks, this would also generate a tiny amount of energy, except that it would also increase the drag on the subway train. The value of this is zero.
myale
Hmm so we assume the train is having drag or resistance because of the current track design - so if you designed these fans to move the air in a better way away from the train then in theory could you not improve or decrease the effect of the drag on the train, so thereby any increase in restance is actually balances out by reducing the original drag.
CliffG
I am so tired of these sorts of schemes masquerading as being useful. This is merely a hugely inefficient way of turning fossil fuel into electricity. You might as well mount a wind turbine on top of the train.
Starmaker
I agree with most of the posters here. I think there are better ways to capture that energy. It seems to me that something like the Windbelt would be cheaper to manufacture, easier to install and potentially give you more energy. If the Windbelt was installed so that it was attached to the rail, you could get vibtations form both the rail and the wind. As the train approaches, the rail would be vibrating long before the wind effect, resulting in 2-3 times more energy generated.
Leithauser
It certainly seems to be that based on simple conservation of energy principles, the increased drag on the train would come close to equaling the energy produced by the generators. Come to think of it, it might be more cost effective to find a way to reduce the wind generated by improved aerodynamics of the train or the tracks themselves (make the tracks allow air to move more smoothing over them so that it does not drag on the train).