Think of wind energy and you probably conjure up an image of giant turbines. But students in Cornell’s Vibro-Wind Research Group have a different model of wind power in mind. They’re working on an ultra-efficient, cheap method to transform vibrations from wind into clean energy with a $100,000 grant from the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund.

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Undergraduate students at Cornell have been working on the design, which consists of a panel mounted with foam oscillators, for the past semester. The conversion from mechanical to electric energy was achieved using a a piezoelectric transducer–a ceramic or polymer device that releases electrons when stressed.

No word on when the students’ design might be commercialized, but eventually the group hopes that vibro-wind setups could be placed on buildings that might not have room–or money–for traditional turbines. We’ll be watching to see what else these enterprising students come up with.

+ Cornell