Earthquakes' kinetic energy harnessed by gadget for disaster relief

A team of students from the University of Leicester has invented a device that can generate power from the kinetic energy of tectonic tremors, offering a solution for providing electricity in emergency situations.

The device consists of a magnet inside a coil, which would shake during an earthquake. The shaking would generate a magnetic field, which in turn would induce an electrical current that could potentially be harnessed for use as energy.

"Whilst much more research would be needed to fully apply the idea, the purpose of the paper was to illustrate that there are methods of adapting to events that are usually considered destructive, such as an earthquake, to provide something constructive," said Elliott Spender, research assistant at the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Leicester, the lead author of the study.

The students modelled how much electricity the device could generate if deployed during some of the major earthquakes of the past, including the 1995 7.2 Richter scale Kobe earthquake in Japan.

The calculation concluded that the device would generate enough electricity to power emergency lights in a building and other vital systems.

The team also modelled how much power could be generated by such devices built into the foundations of the San Francisco Millennium Tower. With a surface area of 1,300 square meters, the building would generate 770W of electricity during a 7.2 Richter scale earthquake. If such energy generating blocks were spread regularly throughout the city, the system would generate 70 million watts in only five seconds. That would be enough to power 120,000 lightbulbs for about an hour – enough to mitigate the initial post-earthquake chaos.

According to Elliot Spender, further investigation into more efficient methods of energy generation could potentially prevent damage to buildings by absorbing the energy transferred from the earthquake to the building.

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