Piezeoelectric Power: Innowattech dreams of energy harvesting roads, railways and runways

December 17 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 2

InnowattechPiezeoelectric materials convert mechanical changes into electrical current.  As with everything else in the new energy sector, its future is being driven forward by materials scientists.

Earlier we featured breakthroughs at Texas A&M and also at Georgia Tech University on materials that generate small-scale electric currents when stretched or pressed.

There is talk of piezeoelectric iPods, but it is hard to imagine systems replacing batteries given the growth in electricity demand of portable gadgets.  The best applications will likely be for sensors, microcontrollers, smart tags, and digital textiles that do not use high end processors.

Energy harvesting infrastructure?

Stories of energy harvesting dance floors have been circulating on energy and environmental blogs for months, but what about roads and railways that have more steady traffic?

Israel-based Innowattech claims to be the the first company to demonstrate industrial scale piezeoelectric solutions that 'harvest' energy from traffic moving over roads, railroads and airport runways.  Their vision is to capture all the motion above ground into electricity for the local grid.

The obstacles to market are probably high given the demands of infrastructure and (very) conservative nature of structural engineers and regulators who build infrastructure for performance (not energy capture).  Not to mention cost challenges in a down economy.   But 'harvesting energy solutions' is a great meme and certaily has its role for future micro energy solutions.  And who can argue the appeal of energy producing infrastructure and built environments?!  

Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

Texas A&M researchers advance self powered (piezeoelectric) devices

Tiny piezoelectric devices convert motion into electricity

Thin film 'energy harvesting' device maker raises another $13 million (Infinite Power Systems)


Image clip from Innowattech video

Comment Thread (2 Responses)

  1. I suppose piezoelectricity and kinetic energy are kind of related in principle? It seems like there is a multitude of fairly simultaneous discoveries occurring in different areas of engineering and science, identifying untapped energy IN EVERYTHING that, if it can be harnessed and directed into the grid, could represent, say, the Holy Grail of energy, the bicycle that pedals itself, because the positive work is creating the energy while it is utilizing that energy. I can imagine an electric track that propels the train due to the action of other trains. It’s should be obvious by now I am no engineer or physicist, but those who are are harvesting energy in previously laughable places, from gravity, from waves, from dancers and roads. And it is all being put into the proverbial grid, which is not quite like the Web – it isn’t being shared equally around the globe, but some day it might. And then we will all have to get out on the dance floor and do our share of ass-shaking.

    Posted by: Adam Cutsinger   December 18, 2008
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  2. Adam good point.. and yes, there is energy transfer in everything that happens. First Law, right. Can’t create new energy… So – this is why I’m a fan of piezeoelectric materials—-

    Only question is: where does it make sense to integrate it into our physical world? And what can we reasonably expect to gain in return. Integrate it into our cell phones and built environment?

    Why not? Agree with you that we should capture energy everywhere!

    But hard to say that it’ll be enough to power high end chips, or other trains and cars.

    lots of engineering and physics questions there.. too much math for me!!

    So – still big on p-materials! Think it’s an elegant solution… very evolved thinking!


    Posted by: Garry Golden   December 18, 2008
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