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Using wasted power to power our machines

By Colin Ricketts - 01 Jun 2011 18:4:0 GMT
Using wasted power to power our machines

By using the energy machines waste researchers in Finland say they can cut fuel consumption in off-road machines by up to half.

The team at Aalto University have used the technique on construction and mining machines, agricultural machines and material handling machines, capturing lost energy to use instead of fuel.

"These heavy duty machines are operated for long periods of time, so by the end of the day emissions and fuel consumption have added up. Being able to target them is a significant improvement," said Professor Jussi Suomela, project leader at the HybLab research network in Finland.

By adding an electric power transmission system the machines become hybrids of petrol power and electricity. While capturing the energy lost when cars brake and decelerate has been successfully attempted in the past, working machines produce an enormous amount of excess energy while performing their primary task and this is the first time that energy has been used as a recycled power source.

The team are now looking at a range of machinery to see if their process can be more widely applied. They have also built in energy storage to their experiments allowing machines to redirect wasted power to a more productive time in its work cycle.

If that wasn't enough, electric transmission also makes machines easier to control, more comfortable for operators, more efficient and easier to design.

"Electricity from the power grid is very cost-efficient and creates no local emissions. If the machine can be plugged in, that is usually the best option. The future is likely to make fuel cells available, too," says Suomela. "And the benefits do not stop here: the machines are even able to release stored electrical energy back into the grid."

Image Credit: Aalto University.