Buildings office of naval research develops magnetic power harvesting device

Published on September 26th, 2010 | by Tina Casey


U.S. Military Captures Magnetic Power to Save Energy on Lighting

September 26th, 2010 by  

office of naval research develops magnetic power harvesting deviceMagnet power is emerging as a jack-of-all-trades in new green technology, and its latest trick could mean a big cut in the energy used for lighting. The Office of Naval Research Global has partnered with the Tokyo Institute of Technology to develop a device for harvesting residual magnetic power from electrical currents. In an experimental installation at a military hotel in Tokyo, the device racked up a peak power savings of 39 percent. Its success has lead to a plan to equip the entire facility with new device, called the Magnetic Energy Recovery Switch (MERS).

Recovering Magnetic Power from Electricity

MERS is basically a way to control the flow of electricity more efficiently. The experimental installation, at the Hardy Barracks hotel in Tokyo, involved several fluorescent lights. In addition to saving energy, the MERS technology also generates less heat and helps to reduce electromagnetic interference. The proposed expansion of MERS to other areas at Hardy Barracks would occur next year, involving a break room, printing room, laundry, gym, and offices.

Energy Efficiency and the Office of Naval Research

In case you’re wondering why the Office of Naval Research is involved in the project, the Navy has been front and center in the U.S. military’s sustainability efforts.  Along with a growing number of solar power and biofuel projects, the Navy has worked with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on high-efficiency LED lighting systems for Navy ships. At a forum last year, the Office of Naval Research affirmed its commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable energy, and reaffirmed its role in bringing new technologies and alternative energy to the civilian world.

Image: Fluorescent light bulb by rubberpaw on 
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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Doug

    Go Allen West:
    I have noticed the pictures used in the articles are rarely meant to be literal examples of the topic being discussed. The article mentions using magnetic power to run light bulbs, so they show a light bulb. The picture was just as likely to be of an old fashioned horseshoe magnet.


    • Tina Casey

      Doug: You are on the money about the images. Sometimes the actual gizmo doesn’t look nearly as interesting as what it does, or there just isn’t a suitable shot of it, in which case I try to find an image that’s evocative without being entirely off-topic.


    My first thought is that although the picture in the article is a CFL, CFL’s use electronic ballasts. So is this application only for flourescent tube lights with magnetic ballasts?
    If so, then it would seem to me that a better way forward would be simply replace the flourescent tube lights with CFLs or LEDs.

    • Tina Casey

      Hi Go Allen West: Good question. Since the tech partner is based in Tokyo, it could be that the Hardy Barracks was simply the most available U.S. military facility in which to run the demo, and the technology could apply to CFLs and LEDs as an add-on, to achieve even greater efficiencies.

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