New project converts vibrations into electricity

Dump trucks are loaded with iron ore in an open mine.

Mines are examples of places where vibrations could be converted into energy. Photo: Getty Images

Vibrations generated by human activity or natural causes can be converted into green electricity. Magdalena Kuchler, Senior Lecturer in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development, and Christian Schiffer, researcher in Geophysics, have been granted SEK 2.7 million by the Swedish Research Council Formas for a research project focusing on this area.

The basis of the “Harvesting Energy from Natural and Anthropogenic Vibrations” project is the increasing demand for sustainable energy solutions due to climate change. The conversion of energy from vibrations into electricity is already being carried out today. However, the technology is mainly used in economically prosperous major cities that have multiple sources of electricity.

“Although harvesting energy from vibrations and converting it to electricity is well researched and applied, especially in rich countries, it is still underutilised in less wealthy countries. Richer cities are the main beneficiaries of this technology, which harnesses the vibrations of bridges, footpaths and railways to power facilities such as traffic lights. Poorer regions could benefit greatly from exploiting industrial and geological vibrations, such as seismic activity, for their electricity production. But there is a lack of basic research and development in this particular area,” explains Kuchler.

Solution for clean and sustainable energy

Thus, by converting mechanical vibrations into electricity, the project aims to create an innovative and scalable solution for clean and sustainable energy, especially in developing countries. Specifically, the project will help to improve living conditions in a Chilean city by providing clean energy for school lighting and charging stations. By focusing on a clear social application of the methods, the project is in line with the Global Goals and simultaneously strives to use both of the affordable clean energy solutions for sustainable development.

The project is part of a larger consortium including researchers from Chile and Norway. The overall aim is to explore the potential of harnessing energy from natural and man-made vibrations through two main technologies: piezoelectric and electromagnetic energy harvesters.

“The project is scheduled to run for two years, and the research consortium anticipates obtaining preliminary results within the first year,” notes Schiffer.

The research team at Uppsala University will mainly focus on different vibration sources and investigate the feasibility, application and socio-economic value of these electricity sources in poor communities.

Malin Eivergård

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