Windmills are great, but they do have their downsides: ice is a problem in wintery places, they’re loud if you’re too close, and they’re, you know, enormous. In the future, wind energy generation may look less like giant spinning windmills and more like trees…artificial trees, that is. Researchers with Ohio State University have found that trees experience a type of vibration when shaken that can be used to generate electricity, and this energy generation could be conducted with small-scale artificial trees.
Solar energy is better for small situations and environments where windmills aren’t suitable, but solar has its downsides, not the least of which is inefficiency in places that don’t get a lot of sunlight. These artificial trees could fill that void, serving as small-scale wind generators in places where solar isn’t enough and windmills aren't compatible -- dense cities, for example.
The researchers cite powering sensors as possible use for the artificial trees — sensors used to monitor things like bridges could get their power from the trees, which would themselves be energized from wind passing through. The vibrations aren’t limited to just wind, though — movements caused by cars driving past, for example, would be just as suitable, transforming everyday activities into potential sources of electricity.
The project’s leader Ryan Harne said:
Buildings sway ever so slightly in the wind, bridges oscillate when we drive on them and car suspensions absorb bumps in the road. In fact, there’s a massive amount of kinetic energy associated with those motions that is otherwise lost. We want to recover and recycle some of that energy.
SOURCE: Ohio State University