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Earth Science Technology

Engineers Devise a Way To Harvest Wind Energy From Trees (vice.com) 75

derekmead writes: Harvesting electrical power from vibrations or other mechanical stress is pretty easy. Turns out all it really takes is a bit of crystal or ceramic material and a couple of wires and, there you go, piezoelectricity. As stress is applied to the material, charge accumulates, which can then be shuttled away to do useful work. The classic example is an electric lighter, in which a spring-loaded hammer smacks a crystal, producing a spark. Another example is described in a new paper in the Journal of Sound and Vibration, courtesy of engineers at Ohio State's Laboratory of Sound and Vibration Research. The basic idea behind the energy harvesting platform: exploit the natural internal resonances of trees within tiny artificial forests capable of generating enough voltage to power sensors and structural monitoring systems.
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Engineers Devise a Way To Harvest Wind Energy From Trees

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  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2016 @10:50PM (#51484441)

    Slap a solar cell on the tree. (Tree has access to sunlight)

  • Engineers Devise a Way To Harvest Wind Energy From Trees

    Wow. I know Slashdot tends to lag behind the other news sites, but this is ridiculous.

  • If they can harvest enough energy to power a Speak-and-Spell hacked into a satellite up-link, they might have something.

  • by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2016 @11:14PM (#51484563)

    The last paragraph pretty much sums it up.
    "It's mostly a proof of concept or rather a disproof of the assumption that wind vibrations can't be usefully harvested. Don't expect tiny metal forests to power cities, but it's still a cool idea."
    So this appears not to have any practical applications.

    • by beckett ( 27524 )

      So this appears not to have any practical applications.

      only if you lack imagination. could see something like this powering sensors (e.g. air quality sampler, barometer, photodetector) would be valuable for leaving self-powered telemetry and a small sensor package to study forest canopy ecosystems, individual tree performance, etc.

    • So this appears not to have any practical applications.

      It also doesn't do anything for theory. No one ever doubted that it was theoretically possible. So it was pointless from any perspective.

    • by orlanz ( 882574 )

      Yeah, overall not very impressive. I mean you could tie a mini windmill, vibrating ribbon between two branches, or sail to achieve the same if not better results. I don't understand the purpose of this other than application of a known theory in yet another expected environment.

  • by XB-70 ( 812342 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2016 @11:18PM (#51484587)
    Quoting from the article: "...Yet for dynamic systems, studies show narrow operating regimes which exhibit internal resonance-based behaviors; this additionally suggests that the energetic dynamics may be susceptible to deactivation if stochastic inputs corrupt ideal excitation properties..."

    If you can read that techno-babble, you either wrote for The Big Bang Theory or you were a technical advisor.

    • Quoting from the article: "...Yet for dynamic systems, studies show narrow operating regimes which exhibit internal resonance-based behaviors; this additionally suggests that the energetic dynamics may be susceptible to deactivation if stochastic inputs corrupt ideal excitation properties..."

      If you can read that techno-babble, you either wrote for The Big Bang Theory or you were a technical advisor.

      Why would you need a technical advisor for a documentary?

    • I don't see the big deal. It means the resonance frequency is narrow and the system would stop to work if external factors move the excitation outside of this narrow band. The sentence is a bit weird, but perfectly comprehensible.
  • Why only trees? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday February 10, 2016 @11:23PM (#51484607) Journal

    I've always wondered why nobody did this with the 'soundwalls' that parallel every urban highway today - all you'd be taking is sound energy, so essentially it would even perhaps improve their sound-deadening qualities, while powering a nearby street light or two.

    • piezo generators have less than a percent of efficiency is why.

      also, your 106 decibel noisy highway is hitting you with a massive 0.04 watts per square meter. can you see the issue here that these piezo dumbfucks can't?

      • piezo generators have less than a percent of efficiency is why.

        I thought it was closer to 80%, at least theoretically. Can you give me a reference for that "Less than 1%" number?

        Whether this maps into anything like that number in a practical device for converting "found" mechanical power - such as tree sway or vibrations - is another matter entirely.

        • Okay, so sound hits a material. If the material is brittle and hard, it won't vibrate, it might even ignore the sound. This solid and brittle material, like glass, would most likely repel sound.
          So what is the soundwall built out of? Either vibrating material in many layers to absorb the vibration, or a brittle hard material to avoid sound waves passing trough it.
          In the first you could get something, if its installed into the wall.
          In the second case, no, there won't be any gains.

        • http://www.greenoptimistic.com... [greenoptimistic.com]
          2012 increased efficiency in PZE design by 25% by reducing coating area.

          And, then it says, you just put hundreds of thousands of these things under highways, and start reaping a non-trivial amount of electricity

          • And, then it says, you just put hundreds of thousands of these things under highways, and start reaping a non-trivial amount of electricity

            And cause a non-trivial increase in rolling resistance and reduction in mileage of the victim vehicles. That energy had to come from somewhere, and collecting it has side-effects.

            TANSTAAFL: The first law of thermodynamics as well as economics.

            The trees, on the other hand, may appreciate some energy-absorbing sway damping - especially in a storm. (As long as it doesn't

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's because the technology is only now getting cheap enough, and even then there is still some development work to do for large scale installations spread over long distances like that. It all needs to be cabled together, there needs to be a plan for dealing with failures, an easy way to install and maintain it must be developed for the non-technical guys who will be doing the actual work etc.

      I'm sure it will come, it just takes a frustratingly long time.

  • Will the tiny forests have tiny herds of deer romping through them.

    https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:14AM (#51485209)

    exploit the natural internal resonances of trees within tiny artificial forests capable of generating enough voltage to power sensors and structural monitoring systems.

    so they invented self-powered Life Alert system for trees? ;)

  • Any time someone proposes an artificial tree as a solution, you know they are an asshole. Put a real tree there. It will use solar power to turn atmospheric CO2 into solid fuel. It really doesn't get any better than that. You would get more power from one tree-sized solar plant than from a whole forest of artificial trees that don't make air, don't clean air, and don't self-repair.

    • Well actually, a small part of it does. The albedo of trees is generally very different than the albedo of the ground or vegetation around the trees. This creates differential heating between forest and non-forest, and the differential localized heating drives differences in localized air pressure. As soon as you have this, you end up with wind as the air flows from low to high pressure.

      It's the same thing as a ocean/sea breeze or mountain breeze, just on a smaller scale.

      (I'd add a close tag to being pedant

  • In the movie, the alien used connections to a tree to power his transmitter to phone home. It's nice to see some confirmation that the idea isn't entirely fantasy.

    • And here we see confirmation bias in the bright lite of day.

      Doke really want's this to work. No critical thinking, just 'It confirms my childhood world view, yeah'.

The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch someone else doing it wrong, without commenting. -- T.H. White

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