Heat captured in subway tunnels could one day heat buildings

Researchers in Switzerland have developed geothermal panels that can capture the heat generated in subway tunnels and use it to heat water or buildings. The project is now a finalist in an international competition.

Underground subway stations often greet passengers with a warm blast of air. In the summer, the heat generated by people traveling in subway cars without airconditioning is released onto the platforms when the car doors open. In the winter, the railcar heating system warms the tunnels.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have been working on ways to capture this excess heat and then use it to heat water in the summer or nearby buildings in the winter, according to a press release.

In 2018, EPFL researcher Margauz Peltier founded a start-up called Enerdrape to develop geothermal panels to capture this excess heat from subway stations. The panels consist of layers of a heat-absorbing material and a system of tubes running behind the panels that contain a heat transfer fluid.

The system will soon be tested in a Lausanne parking garage, but they could easily be installed in subway stations or train tunnels thanks to their modular design.

According to the EPFL, the geothermal panel project is now a finalist in the international ClimateLaunchPad competition. The competition is held every year by EIT Climate-KIC, an EU organization that aims to spur the transition to a zero-carbon economy through a variety of programs. At ClimateLaunchPad, some 140 research teams from 53 countries pitch their zero-carbon business ideas.

Image credit: John T via Unsplash

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