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Proceedings Paper

On-track testing of a power harvesting device for railroad track health monitoring
Author(s): Sean E. Hansen; Abolfazl Pourghodrat; Carl A. Nelson; Mahmood Fateh
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Paper Abstract

A considerable proportion of railroad infrastructure exists in regions which are comparatively remote. With regard to the cost of extending electrical infrastructure into these areas, road crossings in these areas do not have warning light systems or crossing gates and are commonly marked with reflective signage. For railroad track health monitoring purposes, distributed sensor networks can be applicable in remote areas, but the same limitation regarding electrical infrastructure is the hindrance. This motivated the development of an energy harvesting solution for remote railroad deployment. This paper describes on-track experimental testing of a mechanical device for harvesting mechanical power from passing railcar traffic, in view of supplying electrical power to warning light systems at crossings and to remote networks of sensors. The device is mounted to and spans two rail ties and transforms the vertical rail displacement into electrical energy through mechanical amplification and rectification into a PMDC generator. A prototype was tested under loaded and unloaded railcar traffic at low speeds. Stress analysis and speed scaling analysis are presented, results of the on-track tests are compared and contrasted to previous laboratory testing, discrepancies between the two are explained, and conclusions are drawn regarding suitability of the device for illuminating high-efficiency LED lights at railroad crossings and powering track-health sensor networks.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 April 2010
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 7650, Health Monitoring of Structural and Biological Systems 2010, 76500Y (8 April 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.848831
Show Author Affiliations
Sean E. Hansen, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln (United States)
Abolfazl Pourghodrat, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln (United States)
Carl A. Nelson, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln (United States)
Mahmood Fateh, Federal Railroad Admin. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7650:
Health Monitoring of Structural and Biological Systems 2010
Tribikram Kundu, Editor(s)

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