Generating electricity from vibrations in road surface works

Mar 01, 2012

A pilot research project into vibration energy on the N34 provincial motorway near Hardenberg in the eastern Netherlands has shown that vibration energy as a local energy source is a sustainable alternative for the batteries of roadside sensors and other applications. The trial project has provided valuable insights into this innovative form of energy production.

In the autumn of 2011, a piezoelectric material that converts vibrations from passing vehicles into energy was applied to the surface of the N34 motorway. The piezoelectric material was applied to the road surface in a where the speed limit is 100 km per hour. The aim of the was to investigate the feasibility of piezo technology in . The research was carried out by the Tauw advice and engineering agency and the University of Twente in partnership with the Dutch province of Overijssel.

The aim of the pilot project was to establish whether electrical energy can be generated from traffic vibrations using piezoelectric material and, if so, how much energy can be generated. The trial system was tested in various between October and December 2011. A was used to continually monitor the system and collect data.

Results

Tauw and the University of Twente have concluded that energy can indeed be generated using in the road surface. The amount of energy generated depends on the number of passing vehicles and the number of piezo elements in the road. Vehicles that are moving more slowly appear to generate slightly more energy than faster-moving vehicles, but further research is needed to confirm this.

The amount of energy generated during the pilot project was too small to be used for traffic lights or , but it was enough for devices that need less energy, such as wireless motion sensors, which detect vehicles and send a signal to, for example, . Currently these are mainly powered by batteries or solar panels. Vibration energy is a sustainable alternative for these power sources.

The project partners also concluded that integrating piezo elements in an existing is problematic. For the pilot research, a narrow groove was cut into the road and a steel housing containing the piezo elements was fitted into it. Ultimately it turned out that the housing was not strong enough to withstand the forces of the passing traffic, and it came loose in December. This did not cause a traffic hazard, but it did mean that the research ended a few weeks earlier than planned.

Applications

The project partners are hopeful about other applications. Project leader Simon Bos says: “The application of vibration energy in existing roads did turn out to be difficult, but we do see possibilities for existing and new bridges and viaducts, for example at expansion joints. Of course further research into a good, strong design has to be carried out before this can be applied on a large scale.”

Next steps

Following the pilot project, various interested parties have contacted Tauw and the University of Twente to carry out further research into vibration energy. Piezo elements can not only be fitted under bridges and viaducts, but also under concrete road slabs and speed bumps, or alongside railway lines or water drainage channels. The application of piezo elements beneath concrete slabs is at an advanced stage, while the other possible applications are still in the research phase.

Explore further: Using intelligence to unlock the market for electric vehicles

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Raiders of the lost amp

Jul 05, 2011

Energy harvesting is a process that captures energy that would otherwise be lost as heat, light, sound, vibration or motion. It can use this captured energy to improve the efficiency of existing systems or even to power new ...

Modern ceramics help advance technology

May 08, 2008

Many important electronic devices used by people today would be impossible without the use of ceramics. A new study published in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society illustrates the use of ceramic materials in the ...

Recommended for you

Engineering new vehicle powertrains

11 hours ago

Car engines – whether driven by gasoline, diesel, or electricity – waste an abundance of energy. Researchers are working on ways to stem this wastefulness. Ultramodern test facilities are helping them ...

First self-contained step dimming LED tube

Sep 30, 2014

Samsung Electronics today introduced the industry's first AC Direct step-dimming LED linear replacement for T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Convention ...

Battery system will be able to light 2,500 homes

Sep 30, 2014

One of the largest, most environmentally-friendly, battery-based energy storage systems in the nation will be installed at the University of California, San Diego the campus announced today (Sept. 29).

User comments : 0