Road surfaces that generate electricity from passing traffic will be developed in a new UK project that aims to revolutionise local road networks with smart infrastructure.
Backed by £4.5m of innovation grant funding from the SMART Places Live Labs Programme, the two-year SMART Connected Community: Live Labs project led by Buckinghamshire County Council will test technological advances including wireless communication sensors, smart materials, and energy generation and storage.
As part of the project, researchers from Lancaster University’s Department of Engineering will design, fabricate and test smart roads that generate electricity using piezoelectricity (electricity resulting from pressure) and hydromechanical dynamics from passing cars, trucks and buses. The electricity harvested by the roads will be stored in roadside batteries to power street lamps, road signs, air pollution monitors, as well as sensors that can detect when potholes are forming.
The smart roads will also generate data on vehicle speeds, the types of vehicle travelling along the roads, and other information on traffic flows. This data will help the local highways authority to better manage traffic, Lancaster University said.
Professor Mohamed Saafi from Lancaster University commented: “This is a very exciting project where we will develop novel smart road surfaces that harvest energy to power sensors that can monitor both the structural integrity of road surfaces and traffic flows – providing valuable new data streams that will help to significantly improve the efficiency of highways management and maintenance.
“We see these next generation energy harvesting road surfaces as an important part of future smart cities.”
The design of the smart roads will be tailored to the road conditions in Aylesbury. These designs will be tested using computer simulations to determine the optimum number and locations of energy harvesting sections before being constructed and installed.