Power harvesting systems design for railroad safety

Abolfazl Pourghodrat, Carl A. Nelson, Sean E. Hansen, Vedvyas Kamarajugadda, Stephen R. Platt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Railroad crossings represent a significant danger in railroad transportation systems. Each year thousands of accidents occur that involve trains and other vehicles at unprotected railroad crossings, resulting in hundreds of fatalities and injuries. Additionally, derailments occur on average once every 6 h across the United States due to mechanical failures and improperly maintained track, endangering property and lives. The lack of electrical infrastructure in remote areas is a primary barrier impeding the installation of safety enhancements such as warning light systems and track health monitoring sensors that could reduce the frequency of such accidents. Providing on-demand power by harvesting energy from deflecting railroad track during the passage of trains is a promising approach compared with the cost of installing electrical power lines or the lack of robust solar and/or wind power solutions. This paper discusses the design and development of several power harvesting devices capable of scavenging power from the vertical deflection of railroad track. The design of a cam-based generator device driven by the train wheels is also discussed. Simulation and testing results on these devices are also presented in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-521
Number of pages18
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Energy harvesting
  • railroad safety
  • railroad track displacement
  • railroad track health monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering


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