When you think of wind power, you think of giant turbines harnessing big breezes. But industrial designers in China have developed a device that can capture the wind created by trains as they whoosh down the track. The "T-Box" device is installed between railroad ties and buried half-underground so as to not interfere with normal train operation. As the train passes overhead, the whooshing wind spins a turbine inside the T-Box to generate electricity.

Creators Qian Jiang and Alessandro Leonetti Luparini say that 150 T-Boxes could be installed along a kilometer (0.62 miles) of railway or subway track to take advantage of the otherwise wasted wind resource.

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A train travelling approximately 125 mph would produce a wind speed equivalent to almost 50 feet/second. The T-Box would capture this wind, it's turbines producing about 3,500 Watts of power. If the train was about 656 feet long, travelling around 187 mph and passing over that 1 km (.062 miles) stretch, the T-Box could produce about 2.6 kilowatts of power.

The device could potentially provide electricity to remote and underserved areas or to facilities along the railway.

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Designers say the turbine in based on models manufactured by Hetronix, with blades rotating about a central axis inside the T-Box's cylinder housing. Much of the device would be below ground, with only the vents exposed to let in the wind

The T-Box's design won a silver medal in last year's Lite-On Awards and was exhibited last summer at the Xue Xue Institute in Taipei, Taiwan.

Image: Robin MacDougall