Thursday, October 11, 2012

Power From Travel

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both …
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
From The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
In terms of renewable energy, the choice of the road you take could make all the difference.

Jack Shihzong Jang of Delaware, OH was granted, on April 24, 2012, patent US 8,164,204.

His invention? “Electrical generator apparatus, particularly for use on a vehicle roadway.” The invention provides
[a]n electrical generator apparatus, which is configured to convert an external actuation force applied by a vehicle traveling on a roadway into electrical energy, [and] includes
a rotatable top portion adapted to receive the external actuation force applied by the vehicle traveling on the roadway;
a plurality of linkage members operatively connected to one another in succession, the rotatable top portion being operatively coupled to a first one of the plurality of linkage members operatively connected to one another in succession;
a first wheel operatively coupled to a last one of the plurality of linkage members operatively connected to one another in succession;
a second wheel operatively coupled to the first wheel via a tangential coupling element;
a rotatable shaft operatively coupled to the second wheel;
at least one flywheel operatively coupled to the rotatable shaft;
and at least one electrical generator operatively coupled to the rotatable shaft, the electrical generator adapted to convert a rotational movement of the rotatable shaft into electrical energy. The second wheel of the electrical generator apparatus is configured to rotate at a higher angular velocity than the first wheel.
Jang desires to provide “an electrical generator apparatus … designed to capture the otherwise wasted kinetic energy of moving vehicles travelling on a roadway [providing] more efficient use of energy resources. The present invention materially contributes to the efficient utilization and conservation of petroleum-based energy resources by making better use of the energy consumed by vehicles.”

Foot powered grinding wheel
One of the patent drawings illustrates the invention. The invention is basically an in-road pedal connected to a flywheel (114 in the drawing), connected to a generator. Not much different in concept from a foot-powered grinding wheel (I remember my Granddad using one) connected to a generator. In clean tech, there really is not much new under the sun. No word on how the device will withstand being waterlogged from rain, clogged with road grit and debris, frozen with snow or ice, or scraped by the blades of snow plows. Also, no clear indication of how much electricity (e.g., current in amps, or power in watts) the device will produce, although the patent’s specification does state (drawing references removed for clarity) that
a plurality of generators wired in parallel is electrically connected to an electrical storage device. The plurality of generators produce direct current (DC) power. In a preferred embodiment, the electrical storage device comprises one or more batteries for storing the electrical energy generated by one or more electrical generator apparatuses. However, in other embodiments of the invention, a different type of electrical storage device could be employed, such as capacitors or ultracapacitors. A voltage regulator for automatically maintaining a constant voltage level is electrically connected to the electrical storage device. On its output side, the voltage regulator is electrically connected to an inverter that converts the incoming direct current (DC) from the voltage regulator into alternating current (AC) for power use. After passing through both the voltage regulator and the inverter, the output power from the electrical generator apparatuses has the same voltage and frequency as the local power grid.
Lest you think the idea for generating electrical power from the action of vehicles moving over a roadway is new, check out patents US 3,859,589 (1975), US 3892136 (1975), US 3,944,855 (1976), and US 4,004,422 (1977), all cited by the ’204 patent.

Granted under USPTO’s Green Technology Pilot Program, Jang’s patent represents an invention considered by the Office to be clean tech. Read about the Patent Office program in Way Better Patents USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program Discovery and Analysis Report.