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Pressure power from traffic

Haifa, March 10
An Israeli energy start-up wants to turn rush hour traffic into a source of electricity.

Innowattech, an energy company, claims special generators placed under roads, railways and runways can harvest enough energy from passing vehicles to mass-produce electricity.

The generators contain material that produces electricity when mechanical force is applied, like the pressure from a passing car’s tires.

The process, known as piezoelectricity, has been used for years on a smaller scale, including in barbecue lighters and a dance club where the pounding feet of dancers light up the floor. Uri Amit, chairman of Innowattech, said the company’s technology would be the largest application of piezoelectrics to date, with a single 1-km-lane of highway providing up to 100 kw of electricity, enough to power about 40 houses.

The technology has its limitations since it can collect a steady flow of electricity only from busy roads and rails. But Amit said in any case, peak-hour morning and evening demand for power coincided with heavy traffic at the start and end of the day.

“We can produce electricity anywhere there is a busy road using energy that normally goes to waste,” Amit said.

Efstathios Meletis, chairman of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the University of Texas said the Innowattech technology was a “sound idea that theoretically could be done”.

But problems, he said, could arise in the implementation and the coordination needed to bury the generators below highways and train tracks.

One of the hurdles was finding a way to package the generators so they are effective when buried below the road. The company’s chief scientist, Eugeny Harash, developed a casing that acts like asphalt. The generators are then put in the road during scheduled maintenance in 30 cm squares.

“The asphalt is elastic and the pressure of each tire that passes is picked up by the generator, which is buried about 3 cm (1 inch) below the road’s surface,” Harash said. “The drivers won’t even feel a difference.” — Reuters

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