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Energy Harvesting From Vertical Deflection of Railroad Track Using a Hydraulic System for Improving Railroad Track Safety

[+] Author Affiliations
Carl A. Nelson, Abolfazl Pourghodrat

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE

Mahmood Fateh

Federal Railroad Administration, Washington, DC

Paper No. IMECE2011-63906, pp. 259-266; 8 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 3: Design and Manufacturing
  • Denver, Colorado, USA, November 11–17, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5489-1
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


Grade crossings are locations of significant interest for prevention of collisions, injuries and fatalities in the railroad transportation system. Another area of concern is track maintenance, since derailments resulting from mechanically deficient track structures can cause significant endangerment to property and lives. A commonality between these two classes of incidents is that many occur in remote areas due to the lack of electrical infrastructure to power automated warning systems and/or track health monitoring sensor networks. Providing electrical infrastructure to railroad crossings in remote areas is often not economical, and other alternative sources of electricity such as solar and wind energy are not reliable and robust. This motivated development of a hydraulic system capable of harnessing power from vertical deflection of railroad track due to passing railcar traffic. A hydraulic cylinder mounted under the bottom of the rail is compressed and relaxed by passage of each railcar, forcing the hydraulic fluid towards a hydraulic motor and converting the hydraulic pressure and flow into rotational motion and torque. The rotational motion is amplified to drive a PMDC generator. The hydraulic system was developed and testing was performed to verify the functionality of the hydraulic system and quantify the power output.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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