Machine Design
Airport Power System Harvests Soundwave Energy

Airport Power System Harvests Soundwave Energy

Sound hasn’t exactly made waves as a desirable resource for renewable energy, but Boeing sees its potential. The aircraft designer, manufacturer, and vendor recently announced a system that lines airport runways with acoustic-wave collectors that convert sound into mechanical energy, which in turn would drive a turbine to generate power for airports.

1. Sound collectors line the runway. The airplane makes so much noise that sound is a viable candidate for a primary energy source. The numbers on the image are in reference to the patent material.

At takeoff, airplanes continually produce soundwaves at about 150 decibels—enough to rupture an eardrum. Boeing’s design harvests those soundwaves using the aforementioned acoustic-wave collectors, which feature a curved internal surface to collect the noise. The waves are directed down into a chamber where they reach a converter, basically a drum that vibrates with the frequency of the soundwaves.

2. The system collects noise to cause vibration in a drum converter. Resulting airflow is then directed to drive a turbine.

Unidirectional apertures in a housing below the drum pulls in air during half of each drum pulse. During the second half of each pulse, the air is directed downward through a tapered chamber toward the turbine. The pressurized airflow from several systems rotates the turbine to generate electricity and provide power to the airport.

So far, Boeing has yet to reveal just how much power could be generated by the sound system. 

To learn more about the sound-to-electricity system, check out Boeing’s patent

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