Simulation and control system of a power harvesting device for railroad track health monitoring

Kyle J. Phillips, Carl A. Nelson, Mahmood Fateh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

7 Scopus citations


With the vastness of existing railroad infrastructure, there exist numerous road crossings which are lacking warning light systems and/or crossing gates due to their remoteness from existing electrical infrastructure. Along with lacking warning light systems, these areas also tend to lack distributed sensor networks used for railroad track health monitoring applications. With the power consumption required by these systems being minimal, extending electrical infrastructure into these areas would not be an economical use of resources. This motivated the development of an energy harvesting solution for remote railroad deployment. This paper describes a computer simulation created to validate experimental on-track results for different mechanical prototypes designed for harvesting mechanical power from passing railcar traffic. Using the Winkler model for beam deflection as its basis, the simulation determines the maximum power potential for each type of prototype for various railcar loads and speeds. Along with calculating the maximum power potential of a single device, the simulation also calculates the optimal number and position of the devices needed to power a standard railroad crossing light signal. A control system was also designed to regulate power to a battery, monitor and record power production, and make adjustments to the duty cycle of the crossing lights accordingly. On-track test results are compared and contrasted with results from the simulation, discrepancies between the two are examined and explained, and conclusions are drawn regarding suitability of the device for powering high-efficiency LED lights at railroad crossings and powering track-health sensor networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHealth Monitoring of Structural and Biological Systems 2011
StatePublished - 2011
EventHealth Monitoring of Structural and Biological Systems 2011 - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Mar 7 2011Mar 10 2011

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


ConferenceHealth Monitoring of Structural and Biological Systems 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA


  • Power harvesting
  • control system
  • railroad track displacement
  • railroad track health monitoring
  • railroad track simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Simulation and control system of a power harvesting device for railroad track health monitoring'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this