Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A road that generates power?

Now this is interesting!

We are told that driving alone in our cars is a waste of our dwindling fuel supplies.

But scientists now claim they have developed a way to use the movement of cars along a street to generate electricity.

And, to prove it, they will be opening the world's first road of its kind next month.

The scientists in Israel say that cars travelling along a mile length of asphalt could generate more than 640 kilowatts - enough power to run 12 small cars.

The pioneering system works in a similar way to a power-generating dance floor that is already in use in a London nightclub.

As vehicles pass over a road, they squeeze tiny piezoelectric crystals that produce a small amount of energy.

If thousands of crystals are embedded in the road surface, huge amounts of power can be produced.

The current created can be either transferred back to the national grid or used for lighting or heating.

Innowattech, the Israeli company involved in the research, will unveil the first power-creating road in a few weeks' time.

The company is also developing a similar system for railways and for 'travelators' - or moving pavements - at airports.

Scientists throughout the world have been working on similar schemes over the past decade.

American scientists operating in Turin showed in an experiment at the city's railway station last year that human energy could be used to create electricity.

They came up with a prototype generator powered by a succession of people stepping on blocks fixed to the floor.

They claimed that a large crowd could give enough energy to move a train, while nightclub dancers could provide heating, lighting and run sound systems.

The Israeli engineers behind the current project, based at the Technion Institute in Haifa, are led by scientist Haim Abramovich.

They are preparing to show how their system works on a 100m section of road.

This has really interesting possibilities. Just think of an Interstate highway, generating massive amounts of current as vehicles pass over it. That current could be used to charge spare battery packs, racked at rest stops set at regular intervals, say, every fifty miles or so. You drive along in your electric car until your battery pack shows low, then you pull into the nearest rest stop. For a nominal fee, you then exchange your run-down battery pack for a freshly-charged one. In about the same time that it currently takes (you should pardon the expression) to fill up with gas, you'd be back on the road, ready for the next few hundred miles. Meanwhile, your run-down battery pack is racked to recharge. It'll be ready for another customer in a few hours time.

I'm going to watch to see how this develops. We might have something really promising here.



Anonymous said...

Howdy. Am I missing something? The produced energy has to come from somewhere. The piezoelectric crystals have to be squeezed by the weight of the car. Looks to me like the energy produced would be offset by the additional energy required to push the car over the surface. TANSTAAFL, as per Heinlein. However, if my physics is rusty, I'd be interested to know what I missed.

joe said...

My physics may also be a little rusty, but here goes:
The car is already expending that energy. As it rolls across the road surface, it tends to "crush" the asphalt particles. Right now, that energy is "wasted." As long as the tires don't see any difference between the 2 surfaces, it shouldn't cost any more energy to move the car.

Bob S. said...

I think Popgun you are missing the point of the crystals capturing the energy transferred to the road from the cars. It's not creating any energy, only capturing the weight of the cars moving over it, something the cars already have to do.

I could see an application of a self heating road or bridge. The crystals could power heating elements enough to keep the lanes clear of ice or snow.

Crucis said...

I was reading a short story last night by Christopher Anvil called, "Top Line." In it is a description of a layered highway that generates power to help charge moving electrical-powered automobiles.

Seems appropriate in many ways to today. The story is included in an anthology just released by Baen called, "War Games."