Smart roads to harvest clean power from traffic

Smart roads to harvest clean power from traffic

By eeNews Europe

The researchers – including experts in pavement materials, multi-functional nanomaterials, sensor design, and surface chemistry – plan to develop piezoelectric sensors that can be placed under the asphalt layers used in road construction. The sensors would use the energy generated from the applied pressure from the vehicles moving above them to power everything from roadside lighting, traffic signals, billboards, charging stations for electric cars, and roadway monitoring sensors.

The modules would be installed permanently two inches below the road surface. According to the researchers, the system would use low-cost materials and sensors and would not affect normal roadwork maintenance or raise the cost of pavement maintenance operations.

This method of providing electric power is seen as attractive as it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases or require additional space – such as solar power – since the power-generating modules are embedded into the road layers. In addition, the system would allow the state’s Department of Transportation to continuously monitor the health of roadways to improve safety.

"This project could make Texas a leader in the use of piezoelectric technology to create ‘smart’ roads that not only generate clean power but also create a sustainable source of revenue for transportation infrastructure," says JoAnn Browning, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering.

The first phase of the project is anticipated to take 18 months and will involve the design and development of the energy harvesting modules. If subsequent phases go as planned, the researchers hope to have a complete, functional energy harvesting and sensing system ready for implementation within three-and-a-half years.

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