Thinking Tech

Moving trains can produce wind power, but will it ever?

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A speeding train produces tremendous gusts that can just as easily be converted into electricity.

Although nature does a mighty fine job of stirring up vast amounts of usable wind energy, humans whip up a fair bit it of themselves.

A speeding train, for instance, produces tremendous gusts that can just as easily be converted into electricity. A couple years ago, an Indian inventor named Santosh Pradhan proposed a modification to current trains that, according to his calculations, would have harvested as much as 10,000 megawatts of electricity each day from trains operating in Mumbia, a city in India.

Now designers from the firm Yanko Design have seized upon the same principle and developed a device that can collect wind energy from passing trains. The technology works similarly to a wind tunnel concept put forth last year by a team of Korean designers in which miniature turbine-based generators would be strategically placed at various spots along the walls of a subway train tunnel.

The device, called a T-Box, differs in that it is designed to be installed within the actual railing track itself. It consists of a durable metallic cylinder with vents, which allow air to flow through and rotate turbine blades housed inside. Yanko claims that a 1000 meter stretch of railroad can be retrofitted with about 150 T-boxes. Considering that a train barreling down at a speed of 200 kilometers per hour creates winds of roughly 15 miles a second, the T-boxes could generate 2.6 KwH of electricity.

But like many similar ideas, the T-Box currently exists in the pristine world of concepts where issues like debris, dirt and maintenance issues are absent, which isn't the case in the real world. So there's a strong likelihood that train passengers will never see one in operation.

To its credit, though, the T-Box concept did win a design award from the Taiwanese conglomerate Lite-On. So at least they're on the right track.

T-BOX-2010_liteonaward from jiangqian on Vimeo.

Photo: Yanko Design

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure