Recent efforts in piezoelectric research have focused on converting mass friction from roads and highways into an alternative energy source. In December 2015, the Texas Department of Transportation awarded the University of Texas at San Antonio a $1.32 million contract to design and develop a system to collect energy created by vehicles moving over state roadways and convert it to low-cost renewable power.
Last November, the California Energy Commission invested $2 million to study whether PZ crystals installed under asphalt could be used to capture the energy created by cars rolling over congested freeways and pump it into the grid.
Three years ago, astrophysicist Ilan Stern, PhD, helped launch PZ research at Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Aerospace Transportation and Advanced Systems Lab. GTRI recently got the OK from the Georgia Department of Transportation to test embedded PZ material supplied by Tencate in a stretch of road and rest stop surfaces at West Point, Ga. The Tencate geosynthetic reinforcement material can be rolled onto the road before asphalt is poured.
GTRI Principal Research Scientist Kevin Caravati has been in contact with the California Energy Commission about using this material to help generate piezoelectric energy from two lanes of traffic. This energy would electrify a third lane equipped with Qualcomm Halo charging pads that could charge the batteries of electric vehicles in the third lane.