British engineers are developing pavement materials that generate electrical energy from traffic.
Engineers from Lancaster University are working on smart materials that can be embedded in road surfaces in order to harvest and convert vehicle vibration into electrical energy.
The research project is being led by Professor Mohamed Saafi. His research focuses on the development of functional materials and smart sensors for energy and civil infrastructure. Prior to this project, he developed several structural integrity monitoring tools using MEMS, graphene and carbon nanotubes.
The engineers hope to design and optimise road systems that are able to recover around one to two megawatts per kilometre under normal traffic volumes of 2000 to 3000 cars per hour. This amount of electricity is able to power between 2000 and 4000 street lamps, generating environmental benefits as well as significant public utilities savings.
According to the researchers, the cost of installing and operating new road energy harvesting technology would be around 20 per cent of the cost of running 2000 to 4000 street lamps in the UK, so return on investment would be rapid.
“We will be developing new materials to take advantage of the piezoelectric effect where passing vehicles cause stress on the road surface, producing voltage,” Saafi said.
“The materials will need to withstand high strengths, and provide a good balance between cost and the energy they produce.”
“The system we develop will then convert this mechanical energy into electric energy to power things such as street lamps, traffic lights and electric car charging points. It could also be used to provide other smart street benefits, such as real-time traffic volume monitoring.”
The team said the technology, once developed, will undergo field trials in the UK and other areas of the EU.