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Conversion Of Frictional Work To Electricity

  1. Sep 26, 2013 #1
    Hello, I am required to write a feasibility study for my Technical English course about a project that could be done in my field of study, I'm an Electrical and Computer Engineering major and I thought of the idea of converting the heat produced by friction of chalk on classroom boards, feet walking up stairs, sliding doors, and so forth, and converting it into electrical energy. Is this idea feasible at all? Thank you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2013 #2


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    Without a doubt, if you add up all of the feet walking up stairs, chalk screeching across chalkboards (do they still have those?), sliding doors sliding, paper being crumpled up, people scratching themselves, and various and sundry other folderol, there is a lot of energy wasted in the world. The big hairy but in all of this is 'Can this energy be recovered effectively?' Unfortunately, as people are finding out, often the answer is, 'No, it cannot.' Efficiency is the big bugaboo in all such schemes. We don't have a machine or a process where we can round up a bunch of stray joules of energy, collect them, and crank out kilowatts of power out the back end. In fact, it would probably take more energy to collect these stray joules in the first place than what would be obtained in useful electrical output.

    There is a concept in thermodynamics called 'availability', or to use a more modern term, 'exergy'. This concept deals roughly with how readily a given quantity of energy can be turned into useful work, and it incorporates other thermodynamic concepts like 'Carnot efficiency'.


    To give an example, in the summertime, tropical bodies of water, like the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea, are crammed with gigajoules and terajoules of energy from the sun trapped by the water. Hurricanes and other cyclones feed off this energy after they form to sustain the high winds characteristic of these storms.

    There is undoubtedly a large amount of power which can be generated from warm water. Why hasn't man been able to harness such energy? The answer lies partly in the fact that all of our most efficient methods of conversion of energy into work involve having the energy flow from a high-temperature source to a lower-temperature source. The greater the temperature difference, the greater the efficiency of the conversion of energy to work.

    There have been proposed ocean thermal energy conversion projects which would pump hot water from the surface into a specially-designed heat engine, which would convert the thermal energy into work.


    Because of the low temperature differentials involved, such conversion has an efficiency of about 1% to 3%, compared to conventional power plants which have thermal efficiencies of from 40% to 50%. Thus, it takes a very large ocean thermal energy plant to replace one conventional power plant, on the order of ten times as big. Although you don't have to buy fuel for the ocean plant, it will take much longer for the ocean plant to pay for itself than the conventional plant.
  4. Mar 21, 2015 #3
    Frictional energy to electric energy possibly could generate good amount of electricity. on roads, mechanical energy or the friction due to the car tyres could generate electricity. The radium directioner seen on the roads do rub against vehicle tyres. In place of these radium buttons friction converters placed could convert frictional work to electricity. Since the current developed would be dependant on force, heavier the vehicle more the current generated.
  5. Mar 21, 2015 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    I suggest the Wikipedia article on energy harvesting as a good starting place on this and similar ideas.

    The relevant question you should be asking is not can I generate energy, but can I generate (and deliver) enough energy to make it worth the trouble.
    Therefore a simple project, such as a cell phone charger, or a self-powered LED light will be much easier to realize than supplying the grid's demands.

    Good luck with your project.
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