Imagine if a world full of forests generated all the energy we need. That dream could become reality with a new form of wind power production that turns tree movement into clean energy. The technology hinges upon piezoelectricity – the electric charge produced from a vibration applied to any material. According to a new report in the Journal of Sound and Vibration, the movement of trees in the wind produces vibrations that could be successfully converted into energy.
The study, administered by engineers at Ohio State’s Laboratory of Sound and Vibration Research, found that it is possible to convert a random range of vibrations into a viable energy source through the natural vibrational energy of tree-like structures. The natural frequency is like a wall that absorbs and stores the energy from higher frequencies, just like a small ripple of water that accumulates into a large swell.
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This complex science is dependent upon wind (which as we know, can be completely random) turbulently whipping a leaf or small branch around and that power being contained into a larger, powerful low-frequency sway of the tree itself. The engineers tested tiny artificial forests using small tree-like L-shaped steel beams wrapped with polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), a piezoelectric material. The researchers were able to produce about 2 Volts of energy.
Piezoelectricity can be produced from a variety of materials — from tapping on a keyboard to a swaying skyscraper. In fact, the concept has already been patented using keyboard covers. It’s a huge step forward in renewable energy, and we’re anxious to see how it folds.