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Thursday
Aug112016

Cool Construction: Freeways that generate electricity

The AGC Smartbrief provided the original link to a story from KCRA-TV, a Sacramento (CA) news station:

“When cars drive along roads, they vibrate the roads; and it sounds like science fiction, but scientists have developed a material that gets a charge simply from the vibration of a car or truck,” Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, explained.

It's known as piezoelectric technology. Gatto introduced the idea to state lawmakers in 2011 after learning these tiny sensors were being used to generate electricity in Israel, Italy and Japan.

“We could use our roads to generate power and maybe that power could be sold,” Gatto said. “And God forbid, we actually pave some of those roads -- which are in terrible shape.”

According to the story, a 1.5 mile stretch of two-lane highway could generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

The concept of piezoelectricity involves using crystals to convert mechanical energy into electricity.  The application of installing sets of the crystals into roadways dates back almost a decade, with installations such as this project in Israel.  The California Energy Commission studied the application in a 2014 report, which recommended extended field tests to determine the costs and benefits of highway installation.  Now, according to reports, the Commission is prepared to fund multiple pilot projects throughout California.

Piezoelectricity has other fun applications too.  The Temple Night Club, a certified "sustainable" dance club in San Francisco, installed a piezoelectric dance floor, where the dancers power the flashing LED lights built into the floor.

 

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