Student Invention Uses Earthquakes To Measure Earthquakes

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

Perpetual motion machines will almost certainly never exist, but the closest humans can come is focusing on waste-free inventions that don’t use up Earth’s more finite materials. Daniel Tomicek has developed a potentially earth-shattering device that can measure its own earth-shattering.

A fourth year Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering student at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington, Tomicek built a low-power sensor to measure the effect an earthquake is having on a building. If you’re less than enthusiastic about this knowledge, realize that his invention isn’t plugged into a wall. It doesn’t need batteries. Nor gasoline, sunlight, or wind. It runs on earthquakes, or rather the vibrations they cause.

I was trying to decide between making a joke or giving serious consideration to this technology being used in sex toys, and my nose started bleeding.

The idea is conceptually as simple and ingenious as it gets. The wireless sensors are attached to various spots throughout a building. When things are calm, the machine stays off. At the first sign of quake movement, the sensor is activated by the vibrations’ released energy, and it sends data packets to an off-site computer, detailing the effects. The bigger the quake, the more energy produced and harvested, and more data can be transmitted. If only video game controllers could be powered by how often I shake them angrily at the screen.

The transceiver was tested at Te Papa’s Earthquake House in its Awesome Forces exhibit, and the device excelled in its duties each time. As if the progress he’d already made wasn’t enough, he’s working with Professor Winston Sea and Dr Ramesh Rayudu, both from Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering, to create an affordable and easy to operate prototype. Cheap, effective, and all-around efficient. Of course he’s not an American.

“The biggest challenge has been figuring out how to make the sensor work from a cold start – how to ensure the initial packet of information was sent, given that earthquake movements begin so suddenly,” says Daniel.

Perhaps even more interesting, and useful by sheer number of areas to use it, is one of Tomicek’s inspirations for his invention: European scientists working on springs to place beneath dance floors that harness the energy produced by the dancers’ feet, which would then be stored in batteries or used to run other things. Amazing. Once you apply this principal, almost anything seems possible.

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