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 ?
A good thought but it won't generate much energy.
Firstly there is actually very little energy in sound as compared to wind or sunlight. The other thing that you mustn't overlook is that any energy you harness must come from somewhere - so for instance if you used roads to collect vibrations from cars and convert it to power any extra efficiency you would gain over the heat produced by normal traffic vibration would actually be at the expense of car efficiency. Therefore it would actually be self defeating as the cars would use more fuel and offset anything you generated. It would be far more efficient in fact to put all cars on rolling roads with generators connected when parked and leave them running :-(
Well I have to say I am truly blown away by the intelligence of many of the arguments posted in this thread. It proves what I have always felt about our community, there is more than just aural genius lurking out there.
In truth, I posted this as a way to begin a dialogue. Throughout history , often ridiculed ideas or hypothesis have attracted the scorn on the intelligensia. Not for a moment do I think that this idea is a slam dunk, but one has to accept that our total understanding of all the components and nuances that support life as we know it are not totally understood. Therefore it is reasonable to argue that with future discoveries, energy harvesting from a by product of noise pollution is possible. By today's standards, it might seem riduclous but every day we are reminded by the collective brilliance and stupidy of humankind.
Because there is still a reasonable amonut of fossil fuels available , we will not see any major advance in alternative energy on a cost efficient basis until that passes a particular threshold. Its possible that a solution already exists but I do believe that in the next 50 years we will see advances in technology that will dwarf what we have seen in the last 30.
I look forward to that time, an evolution of our own species to respect the world we all inhabit.
Thanks for all your enlightened thoughts. You guys are the best.
Thanks for starting this topic, given the quality of your work, it's no surprize.
The practical issue against new energy ideas, traditionally, was that there was not only more money to be made from fossil fuels, but the actual power generated from combustion is far greater than the best projected alternatives of anything else. More efficiency and more money has meant little interest in alternatives, as we'd expect.
So looking back 20 years ago, when the major oil companies looked seriously into alternatives, from a business standpoint ... they found nothing worth inventing in, because even the best projected efficiency was not there as compared to oil. It wasn't just that they are evil, or narrow minded ... they exist for their shareholders (a whole other discussion) and they can make more power and more money with the status quo. I feel their angle should be pointed out, to be fair to the reality of combustion as a power source.
Looking ahead, materials technology advancements are the key IMO ... so with something like that Amerigon company (above), as the materials are more efficient, the technology will become viable. As the **** hits the fan the more adventurous minds are forced to step up. Add those two up and there is hope!