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I had this idea !
Old 17th February 2007
engineer / producer / mixer
Kevin Killen's Avatar

I had this idea !

This is one for all the gear heads.

A few years ago I was listening to NPR about a minor earthquake in northern California. I began to think that maybe there was a correlation between man made noise and tectonic shifts ! We generate a huge amount of noise pollution with all our automobiles and technologies. Suppose all that wasted energy was somehow being absorbed into the ground and causing additional stress on the earth's crust. Sounds ridulous of course, but what if it were true?

So that got me thinking that perhaps there was a way to harvest all that sound and recycle it for a renewable energy source. I wrote this idea down at least two years ago and showed it to some friends. My wife thought it was genius but i never did anything about it. I did have a firend at the EPA who showed it around and suggested i try to get some funding to check the theory out, but hey, I'm a busy guy.

Imagine my surprise when the NY Times magazine had an issue dedicated to last years oddball ideas in December 2006. There it was on page 46 , "Energy Harvesting Floors". Spring loaded floors in a underground subway platform that could pick up out vibrations from footsteps and convert them into energy !!!!!!!!!!!

My idea was to re-engineer guitar pick up technology and create a underlay of sensors that could pick up automobile noise and create a renewable energy source.

Curious to know what all you gearheads think about that ?

Old 17th February 2007
engineer / producer / mixer
Kevin Killen's Avatar

So here is the article I wrote

How the Car can be Used to Save the Environment! What?

There is a transformation of energy, that is currently being overlooked, that can be harnessed to ultimately save the world from global warming. You think I am crazy? Perhaps, but before you judge take a look at this potential supply of reusable energy.

This new concept is based upon existing technologies that can be redirected and implemented in an emerging industry to the benefit of the environment and society as a whole. It is unquestionable that the world needs to find renewable sources of energy to satiate our expanding demands. The automobile is at the forefront of that curve. What if it were possible to take the very thing that consumes so very much of our energy and turn it into an “energy producer”? Intrigued?


We are surrounded by sound, some of it pleasant and some of it just plain “noise”. One of the greatest producers of noise pollution is the automobile. On our streets and particularly our highways, millions of cars and trucks produce an enormous amount of sound. Normally, sound generated in this fashion dissipates into the air and ground. Yet, sound, which is made up of many frequencies, has a measurable “energy” called “wavelength”.

Is it possible to “capture that noise” and render it in a productive form.

Basic Principle:

There are many systems currently in place to capture sound, which have proven to be very efficient. Imagine a system that place’s magnetic pickups in a specially designed underlay during road construction that would harness the energy omitted by cars and trucks. Not unlike the basic principle that is used in electrical guitar pickups or speaker technology. It is possible to reverse engineer these items to be the harvesting agent.

The following description is taken from the” website dedicated to expanding knowledge about electric guitars and how they work.

“Pickups work on the same principle as electric generators. Whenever there is relative motion between magnetic flux lines and an electrical conductor (copper wire) an electrical signal will be generated in the conductor. The strength of the signal generated depends on how much (how many coils) of the conductor “cut” the magnetic flux lines, how fast the relative motion is, and how strong those flux lines are.

Generators work because a coil of wire is rapidly rotated in a fixed magnetic field (or vice versa in some instances). So, why does a guitar pickup work? Neither the magnet nor the coil is moving or vibrating—why do we still get a signal? Any time a ferous material is placed within a magnetic field, it will “warp” the magnetic flux lines. Therefore, when steel guitar strings vibrate within the field of the fixed pickup magnet, they cause the magnetic field to “vibrate” as well. This creates motion of the flux lines relative to the coil of copper wire and generates an electrical signal One can increase the generated signal stronger by either increasing the number of turns of wire on the coil, or by increasing the strength of the magnet. “

Modern highway construction uses “rebar” to strengthen and add support to the process. Imagine if a complimentary system could be designed that could capture the wasted sound energy of the automobile. In essence it would be akin to turning our highway system into a large “vibrating grid”, from which electrical signals could be generated to light roadways and power many low voltage systems.

How To Accomplish:

Adapting this process- converting sound into electricity- is absolutely possible with the proper electrical and mechanical engineering. Such technology would clearly reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. The world is wedded to the automobile for decades to come, but a “vibrating grid “ system could become the first true renewable energy source!
Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear
djui5's Avatar

Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear
David Herbert's Avatar

Interesting idea. It would also decrease noise pollution.
I used to have a snowboard with piezo chips that would convert riding vibration into light. It was a little hokey but apparently the technology was from fighter jets.
Cheers, David
Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear

Thanks for sharing your knowledge here Kevin - much appreciated.

I've been interested in fringe science free energy ideas of various types, and I've had similar thoughts about tapping into acoustic energy.

The huge bonus would be a quieter world, if it could be done well.

But from what I can tell, a very small amount of energy can make a large amount of sound. So unfortunately it would take some fairly loud sounds to make useable energy.

For example: absorbant materials such as fibreglass and foam can soak up a lot of unwanted sound. They turn this energy into heat - but not so much that we actually notice it.

I guess we could make very large diaphragm dynamic mics that output a reasonable voltage in a noisy environment. This could be rectified and used to charge large condensors or batteries, and could probably drive some LED lights for a while. This would make a great science project - and maybe it could be developed into a commercial product.

I just think the investment in infrastructure required to tap reasonable amounts of power would probably be better placed in tapping wind or tidal energy. In some ways, these are just extremely low frequency audio capture devices.

But just imagine if you could buy a flat panel appliance that sucked large amounts of acoustic energy at user selectable frequencies, and turned it into useful energy (even if it's only light). The potential uses would be huge.

It's any idea worth thinking about - and who better than audio engineers.

My 2 cents.
Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear

Can I just add another thought I had when I was seriously considering this subject a few years ago:

Acoustic energy is vibrations in a gas. A gas is incompressible - which makes it very hard to contain and control. Any device that could extract sound energy would present a physical load or obstacle to the vibrations, and the pressure would tend to disperse.

Acoustic energy in solids or liquids might be easier to extract, on account of them being incompressible (?).

The use of resonance is probably most intriguing. Perhaps Helmhotz resonators could suck energy more effectively, enabling very efficient trandsducers to be made.

I've read about a guy who studied insects, and stumbled on this massive beehive that consisted of cells which acted like a very peaky Helmhotz resonator. This apparantly had some freaky characteristics that he studied, and developed some wierd devices that borded on witchcraft (levitation etc). Or perhaps he was a nutter - it's hard to tell.

But it's very intriquing, and I think acoustic phenomena is a fantastic science that is worth exploring. Everything is vibrations - some people even believe that matter itself is vibratory physics in a medium some people call the "ether". Conventional science laughs at this theory - allegedly disproved by Einstein and Michelson Morley. But Einstein was not actually convinced there is no ether, and Michsel Morely only proved that IF the ether exists, there is no relative movement between it and the earth.

Also worth exploring - there is evidence you can record vibratory patterns in fluids, record and transfer them with ordinary soundcards, and then reproduce those patterns into a glass of water - and reproduce phsyical effects of the first fluid into the pure water. Basically electron homeopathy.

Contentious - but I really think if any fantastic advances are going to be made in acoustic research, they are going to seem a little wierd at first.

OK - I expect this will not pass the censors!
Old 17th February 2007
Gear Addict
Hi Kevin

Funnily enough, I was at a seminar yesterday in Ullapool - near the north end of Scotland - on using underfloor heating and ground source heat pumps (effectively a fridge in reverse) The company running the seminar had kitted out their car park, which could hold 10 or so cars. The amount of heat energy generated was in the order of 130 megawatts annually which not only heated their office and warehouse and provided hot water, but returned enough heat to the car park to keep it free of ice and snow (up to about 15cm). Applying the idea to the roads and driveways outside people's houses and allowing for reversable ground source heat pumps, you can both heat and cool homes for little more running cost than the pumps which circulate liquids though the system and the compressor which produces heat. They say about 1Kw in, gets from 4 - 8 kw upwards back out, translating to savings of about 75% in heat and hot water. Only downside is capital cost though with government grants, here in the UK payback time is about 5 or so years.

The only drawback to the system is that it relies on underfloor heating which runs much cooler than traditional wall hung radiators... but if there was some practical way of harnessing the energy from sound and motion on the roads too in sufficent quantities to generate a usable electricity supply at the very least I'd imagine it was possible to reduce heating and cooling costs to zero!


PS: Many thanks for all the great posts Kevin
Old 17th February 2007
Gear Nut
Devina's Avatar

great scientific thinking...there's a few laws of physics at work there !
Old 17th February 2007
modern cars can all be converted to run on hydrogen... it's jr.high school chemistry and costs about $10k for the whole deal

sea water + solar panels (use low voltage to separate water into H^2 and O^2)

store in hydrite tank

free fuel forever

and dont bother separating crude oil into hydrogen.. it's IDIOTIC.. all it does is shift the pollution to the factory away from the car exhaust...

dont believe me tho.. read THIS
Old 17th February 2007
Gear Nut

Hi Kevin,

I like this idea. My first question is though, even vibrating guitar strings don't output enough energy to be significant for amplification by themselves. Our electric guitars recquire additional power to "amp" up the signal to even the most modest volume. So much mechanical power on an electic guitar is lost in the conversion process to electrical. People at some point must have done some research concerning how efficiently sound can be converted into other forms of energy. My instinct is that there is no conversion process that would be efficient enough to make this viable in todays world although I have no way of knowing for sure. The sound from automobiles travels in all directions so even if some device could 100% efficiently capture these waves (which nothing even comes close to that percentage) and convert them into say electricity, it's only as good as it's surface area. Most of the energy would still be wasted. In order to accurately decide if this idea is viable some people would have to do some serious research. I love this kind of thinking though, our society wastes so much energy everywhere. Ideas like this will lead to people discovering new ways to take advantage of what we waste and turn it back into productive things in society. More people need ot think like this. Thanks Kevin.
Old 17th February 2007
Gear Addict
Mike Derrick's Avatar

Interesting idea Kevin, although I wonder how much energy sound does produce?

Would a car passing by the length of one street lamp to another street lamp produce enough energy to provide electricity to light the street lamp bright enough and long enough to shine light on the roadway before/while-passing-by/and after the car drives by?

Maybe it would be enough to light those reflecters that mark the center lines?

Maybe we could harness the vibrations of an electric guitar to power our amps....?

I'm thinking at first glance (without any knowledge in this electrical area) that the sound energy produced might be minimal,...however, when talking about cars and noisy big trucks, roads with bumps-onpurpose-so-that-cars-and-trucks-go-clunck-going-over-them may be enough of it may help provide electricity to something....who may just be on to something, but I wonder if the energy in making that kind of infrastructure might outweigh the benefits it could provide....who knows,...just thinking outloud.

How much are entry level shares for your "Sound Energy Corp"?
Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear
Stephen Bennett's Avatar

It is a great idea Kevin, and being taken seriously by those architects interested in energy conservation. I'm working ona scheme to generate electricity from gym machines - all that energy is just going to waste at heat at the moment and it could, at the very least, power the gym itself.

I also remember reading about a band whose live gigs were being run by the audience on cycle generators. 'Pop will run itself', indeed.heh

Now, if only we could harvest all the hot air generated on the Internet........


Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear
juicylime's Avatar

Originally Posted by Kevin Killen View Post
My idea was to re-engineer guitar pick up technology and create a underlay of sensors that could pick up automobile noise and create a renewable energy source.

Curious to know what all you gearheads think about that ?


AGHHH!! I love it! Absolutely amazing! Okay, I work in video production and LED screens for large concerts and festivals and I just had an idea. In fact, this is great so I'm going to PM it instead!!
Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear

Very cool idea!

I think it's GREAT of Kevin to take a moment to hilight the current environmental crisis. Would it be too off-topic to also discuss things each of us can do to make a difference TODAY? Here's one of the things I'm working on;

If every American home changes just one light bulb to an ENERGY STAR bulb, greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to nearly 800,000 cars would be removed from the atmosphere.!OpenDocument

I've changed out three so far (that eliminates 138 watts of usage right there). I'll do more as soon as I can find dimmer-capable CF bulbs. I'm also going to test them out in my studio and see if there's any RF issues with modern CF bulbs.
Old 17th February 2007
Gear Maniac
Mark Cattano's Avatar

sound as renewable energy...


Interesting idea. I just hope there aren't any weekend recording engineers/ members that work for Exxon reading this thread. Wasn't solar energy supposed to be the next big thing? What about electric cars? The big oil companies don't want this type of technology developed...and they own Washington DC. Of course, that's not to say we shouldn't try anyway.

Keep up the good work, Kevin!

Warm Regards,

Mark Cattano
Magneto Studios
Old 17th February 2007
Gear Maniac
TER's Avatar

Much like a pre-polarized condenser capsule, pressure sensitive materials are in existence which would do what you are talking about. I have a friend who was in on designing helmets for the military which would use the bouncing/motion of the helmet to power the helmet borne communications devices. When he told me about it I said "Why don't they put that stuff under roads?" That was a year an a half ago...

I, too, think there is SO much wasted energy and so many ways to tap the by-products of our power generating devices. Unfortunately, there is so much powerful money riding on our continued dependence on oil that these ideas rarely get significant backing. We need a Bill Gates or some other generous billionaire to step up and show that intelligent production and consumption of energy is viable, valuable, and a good business investment.

The sad thing is that there is so much "free" power out there...once the capture/distribution devices are in place the power would just be there. Solar, wind, vibration, etc. are everywhere in abundance.

The best practical application of this kind of thinking I've seen are mini-turbines mounted under highway overpasses and in tunnels... using the air pressure/velocity of the passing cars to provide the juice to spin the turbines. The source was there all along... it just took someone to recognize it and make a device that would harness it.

Old 17th February 2007
Deleted bd1be4f
Very clever idea, I don't see why it couldn't work from a technical perspective.

Being a Tesla nut, I'm very familiar with alternative and free energies, and the fact that there are and have been many viable renewable and free energy technologies. The problem is the same one Tesla ran into when he discovered how to harness and convert cosmic rays into electricity, namely that there is nowhere near the profit margin for the energy conglomerates that there is in fossil fuels, so it got squashed.

Given that your proposal would require major road infrastructure work to be successful, the only hope of it becoming a reality would likely be to bring it to and start with a local government in an environmentally forward thinking country (not the U.S.).
Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear
andychamp's Avatar
Originally Posted by Kevin Killen View Post
Imagine my surprise when the NY Times magazine had an issue dedicated to last years oddball ideas in December 2006. There it was on page 46 , "Energy Harvesting Floors". Spring loaded floors in a underground subway platform that could pick up out vibrations from footsteps and convert them into energy !!!!!!!!!!!
IIRC, many many years ago (80's)there was an "article" in MAD Magazine, drawn by Al Jaffee (?), that proposed using such a floor system in discos.
Or maybe it was sidewalks? But definitely in MAD.

BTW, thanks for all your insights this month. This will definitely be an archive to re-visit with the corresponding CDs playing in the background for reference.
Old 17th February 2007
Gear Addict

Kevin, great Theory !
Actually any kind of energy even the bad one not only in the physical realm but also in the spiritual realm can be change o transformed into "good energy" So not only we could be able to prevent damage with our noise..but also transform it create something good!!that is the best part!!

I really believe that! I think the point here is to analyze and decompose the eney "audio-noise energy" to realize their effects!

Great Kevin you always surprise me!
Old 17th February 2007
Lives for gear

Getting back to Kevins idea of converting electric guitar pickup technology - I think this could work to generate useable electricity, but not by acoustic energy.

A guitar pickup doesn't actually pick-up acoustic energy. It picks up changes in magnetic flux, and those changes are caused by a moving steel string.

A car is a large moving steel object. If we created a huge guitar pickup, with large permanent magnets either side, and a huge coil - we could create tunnels that cars could pass thru, and generate fairly large amounts of electricity. This could be used to power traffic lights or whatever is necessary.

It would probably also erase all magnetic media, and would probaby not be as cheap or effective as photovoltaic panels. But it should work very well in theory. Unfortunately the energy would be provided by the cars, and is therefore still fossil fuel powered.

But the idea of extracting acoustic energy is worth investigating. I think highly tuned helmotz resonators could be used to create a 'sonic vacuum'. Normally these turn acoustic energy into heat - but if some ferromagnetic or perhaps piezo material was used, perhaps this energy could be turned into electricity. Maybe an acoustic equivalent of a photovoltaic panel? Light doesn't seem to be a very strong force, but it generate useful power.

Imagine an array of PVC pipes at various lengths. Each of these would suck specific frequencies from the ambient noise. An efficient transducer mounted at the 1/4 wavelength should do the trick.
Old 17th February 2007
converting sound into power... sounds like a pipe dream to me... with very little potential for ROI.

we have the perfect fuel already. hydrogen.. burn hydrogen get water... get hydrogen from a 9v battery and 2 wires stuck into water... the negative pole gives off H^2 bubbles.. the positive O^2. use something we already have in GREAT ABUNDANCE like wind or sunlight to separate SEA water... remember, everyone's worried about rising sea levels and melting ice caps? well, burn H^2 and there's no CO^2 released... no greenhouse gasses.. you can DRINK the water that comes out of the tailpipe... this is jr.high chemistry.

and it's simple to add a hydrogen injection system to existing gasoline engines.... the whole she-bang costs about $10k... for the car mods, solar panels, and hydrite tank... for FREE FUEL FOREVER.

i guarantee this will work a LOT better than converting noise into power.

only prob is fighting the oil companies who want (obviously) to sell you fuel till the end of time.....

ppl can't stay stupid forever tho.
Old 18th February 2007
Gear Addict
tomwehrle's Avatar

if they could create something to place in concrete/asphault that would be some sort of solar panel...i would think the energy going unused from the sun is much greater then that we create everyday by noise, but its a very cool idea, just think how much noise you could pick up during a big thunderstorm, or hurricane!
Old 18th February 2007
Lives for gear
G-Spot's Avatar

Hi Kevin!
Great idea indeed but as kiwiburger and andymixer said, no conversion process would be efficient enough to make it viable (profitable).

As a patent examiner I see alot of good ideas that never come into production... others do, like the energy taken from a car when it brakes to help refilling its batteries (like in the Toyota Prius).

Converting energy produced by sound/noise to some other form of energy its actually a very good idea (you are right, there is plenty of noise out there) but I think its a bit like the example that a teacher told us in the University: "It is true that when we talk there's a certain amount of energy coming out of our mouth in form of heat and sound, but we can talk for days and this room will never be noticibly warmer.. at least from talking..."

The other thing is the electric balance between the energy gained by capturing such energies and the energy spent to produce elements that capture such energies... We could imagine an highway with pickup-rails or fences along the both sides of the highway to capture the energy released by cars... but how much would it cost (in electric energy) to produce these mega pickups?... you may end up spending more energy than winning... this is basically THE problem of recycling energies... we may succeed but at what cost?...

Anyway I think that Universities and Institutions should do all the research they can to discover/invent other ways of recycling energy even if these new and inventive ways wouldn't be profitable... it would help making the world an (even) better place


P.S. Kevin, thanks for your reply to my Mixed questions... I wanted to thank you but the thread was already closed... next time I'll send you a PM. Thanks.
Old 18th February 2007
Lives for gear

The only problem with converting water into hydrogen is - we are told - it takes more energy to produce the hydrogen than the energy released when it is burn. This makes it a great energy storage device, but doesn't actually make any.

But ... very interesting to audio engineers ... (remember this before this thread is closed down) ...

Every molecule has a resonant frequency, and it is possible to liberate hydrogen from water IF you resonate it at the appropriate frequency. Maybe we can't extract much useful energy out of sound - but I am certain we can extract useful hydrogen out of water by using sound.

Also - certain catalysts boost the effect of electrolysis. Magnesium is an effective catalyst in causing hydrogen to seperate from water. One of my many hats is an oil engineer, and I know that - for example - you can't use water soluble cutting oils if you are machine magnesium. Because the magnesium causes the water to seperate into hydrogen, and a spark from the lathe cutting tool can cause hydrogen explosions.

So imagine a special devices that exposes water to a large surface area of magnesium - stimulated by a quartz crystal controlled sound transducer designed to shake the water apart. Ever seen those cheap ultrasonic devices that turn water into mist, for garden displays ...

Various people have produced cars that can run on water. It's not that hard. A famous example was done in the 1970's in my home town. But there are powerful corporate interests who seriously want to kill this technology, and if you resist you can end up dead.

The times might be changing though ... there is so much free energy research available now, it's a fascinating if frustrating subject. Just watch your back, especially if you develop a saleable product.
Old 18th February 2007
Gear Head

Guitar Chords

Neat idea!

I wonder if open chords would generate more energy than barred ones...

A self sustaining amp would be cool!
Old 18th February 2007
Lives for gear

Anyone doing free energy research has to wade through a bunch of out-there theories from seriously out-there people. There is a fine line between genius and madness - but both types of thinking can ask a lot of good questions and suggest a lot of alternative answers.

So with that disclaimer - free energy researchers are probably aware of Wilheim Reiche and his orgone accumulator. This guy was either a genius or a madman - hard to tell where it begins and ends. But he noticed a thermal phenomenon with his orgone accumulator that has always intrigued me from an audio engineering perspective.

An orgone accumulator is basically a layered box, alternating between organic and in-organic material. It is suspiciously like a capacitor, but also supiciously like an acoustic bass trap. He noticed that this device develops heat, with no obvious source of energy. He noticed that this effect was strongest when it was placed near flowing water. Allegedly, nothing could explain this heat increase.

BUT - to me it seems fairly obvious that the device would be converting acoustic energy into heat. A flowing stream provides a constant source of noise - so maybe that's all it was.

I think resonance is the key to efficient extraction of power from sound. An opera singer can shatter a wineglass - at the resonant frequency, transfer of energy is almost 100%.

The cost of the technology might be realistic if it was incorporated into roadway or bridge design. I'm thinking fairly large tuned ports might be needed - but maybe this could be designed into necessary structures. Concrete bridges or embankments might be designed to absorb and convert acoustic roadway noise into useable energy. I understand that acoustic considerations to reduce motorway noise are expense anyway.
Old 19th February 2007
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G-Spot's Avatar

Have a look to this
Old 19th February 2007
Gear Maniac
contempo's Avatar

Originally Posted by Kevin Killen View Post
This is one for all the gear heads.

A few years ago I was listening to NPR about a minor earthquake in northern California. I began to think that maybe there was a correlation between man made noise and tectonic shifts ! We generate a huge amount of noise pollution with all our automobiles and technologies. Suppose all that wasted energy was somehow being absorbed into the ground and causing additional stress on the earth's crust. Sounds ridulous of course, but what if it were true?
could be!

nicolas tesla would be proud!
Old 19th February 2007
Gear Guru
lucey's Avatar
A similar waste-use technology is being developed by a company called Amerigon in Michigan (ARGN). They're using waste heat, not sound, to make electricity ... and from the same device making heat and cold more efficiently from electricity.

They own a French-invented technology from the 1800s, and they continue to make it more efficient every few months with new materials. At the moment all it's used for is a small heating and cooling element sold for automotive seats, but they are a couple of years from a commercial unit. A more efficient unit would do many things in two categories:

Turn all waste heat into electricity ... so strap one one on your auto or home exhaust or power plant exhaust, or any heat source, and get a more electricity than previosuly imagined possible.

Turn electricity into heat and cold more effeciently than the (mostly chemical) processes used now. (They have contracts in place with the US govnt and Carrier corp for the commerical Heating/Cooling system that would be more efficient than a heat pump/AC for residential or commercial use.)

In short, you have a 'chip' and you have some wires. Run the current one way, get heat .. run in the other, get cold. Have cold or heat, make electricity. This was not very efficient in the 1800s but modern materials are making it more and more so.

In general, there's hope, but we need to get on it.
Old 19th February 2007
Originally Posted by Kiwiburger View Post
The only problem with converting water into hydrogen is - we are told - it takes more energy to produce the hydrogen than the energy released when it is burn. This makes it a great energy storage device, but doesn't actually make any.
do you have any idea how much energy it takes to store sunlight in hydrocarbons 2mi underground?

the point in using windmills and/or solar to separate water is that we are NOT using this energy anyhow... so it's almost irrelevant how efficient it is.

using wind/solar power in this way is IMO the best use for it, since it doesnt matter how erratic the wind or sunlight is... if you use wind/solar to power your house you'll have to have expensive batteries for storing excess power or for use when there's no wind/sun....

the other problem here is ppl dont understand the economics of crude oil.. and how long it took to store sunlight as hydrocarbons... and then there are the pollution aspects.

ppl will smarten up eventually. it may take a few hundred years.
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