Harvesting Energy From Internal Resonance
Researchers at Ohio State University are working on the idea of harvesting energy from the internal resonance of buildings as they sway with the wind.
He and his colleagues tested the mathematical model in an experiment, where they built a tree-like device out of two small steel beams—one a tree “trunk” and the other a “branch”—connected by a strip of an electromechanical material, polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), to convert the structural oscillations into electrical energy.
They installed the model tree on a device that shook it back and forth at high frequencies. At first, to the eye, the tree didn’t seem to move because the device oscillated with only small amplitudes at a high frequency. Regardless, the PVDF produced a small voltage from the motion: about 0.8 volts.
Then they added noise to the system, as if the tree were being randomly nudged slightly more one way or the other. That’s when the tree began displaying what Harne called “saturation phenomena”: It reached a tipping point where the high frequency energy was suddenly channeled into a low frequency oscillation. At this point, the tree swayed noticeably back and forth, with the trunk and branch vibrating in sync. This low frequency motion produced more than double the voltage—around 2 volts.
Those are low voltages, but the experiment was a proof-of-concept: Random energies can produce vibrations that are useful for generating electricity.
In A Journey In Other Worlds, published in 1894, John Jacob Astor IV wrote about "rooftop windmills", which I suppose are more obtrusive than harvesting energy from the house as it flexes in the wind, but it's a similar idea:
Sometimes a man has a windmill on his roof for light and heat; then, the harder the wintry blasts may blow the brighter and warmer becomes the house, the current passing through a storage battery to make it more steady.
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