Piezoelectric Elements Can Turn Highways into Green Zones

Astonishing new advances in clean energy production are happening worldwide with the experimentation and understanding of piezoelectric technology.

Piezoelectricity is the energy caused by the weight, motion, vibration, and temperature changes that occur between two objects as they pass. It is a natural occurring energy that an object releases as a force or friction is applied to its surface; such as vehicles and roadways, bicycles and bike paths, or pedestrians and sidewalks. This friction creates a voltage that can be transformed into re-usable energy.

Piezoelectricity is known as vibration energy and occurs in waves and can be measured comparatively to how they measure the energy produced in ocean waves or moving water, known as hydroelectricity.

Piezoelectric crystals can be attached to any surface. These are pressure sensitive materials that when squeezed release an energy charge that can be harvested either to use immediately or back into the grid for future use. Gizmag wrote,

“This means that parasitic energy of busy roads, railroads and runways near population centers can be converted into electrical energy that can run public lighting, or fed back into the grid.”

Piezoelectric elements have been known about for a long time. They are what cause sparks in cigarette lighters and gas cookers. But until recently their energy has never been measured or thought of as great enough to make a strong impact.

Currently many different test projects are underway:

  • A quarter mile stretch of highway in Israel has installed piezoelectric crystals and is monitoring the energy use.
  • Piezo Electric Generators (IPEG) were developed by Innowattech and can harvest piezoelectricity by capturing and storing the energy for re-use.
  • In 2009 Kouhei Hayamizu developed other generators that are now powering one of the 108 LED lights that are on the Goshiki Zakura Ohashi Bridge in Tokyo. The generators are using the bridge’s own traffic to power its lights. Hayamizu stated,

“I am now developing remodeled generators to supply 100 percent of the electricity demanded by the LED lights on the bridge.”

  • POWERleap, a Michigan company founded in 2008, currently finalized their flooring system that generates electricity and are raising the funds for pilot tests and technology validation.
  • California State Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee passed a bill for a pilot program on its roads in April 2011 that will be funded by already established energy alternative funds. They are estimating that 0.6 mile of a single-lane highway can create enough energy to power 30,800 homes per year.
    Trials of POWERleap's flooring system

Piezoelectric DiagramThe concept of using what we do day-to-day, driving to work, walking our dogs, going for a jog, kids riding their bicycles, and re-using the energy that is created to power traffic signals, street lights, or homes is an enlightening concept. This concept of improving what we already have to making our world a better place to live in is the best idea.

Resources: Cnet, I Stock Analyst, Gizmag, Fast Company, POWERleap, and Progressive Blogic