Researchers at Haifa's Technion Institute of Technology have started testing a new system for generating electricity from road traffic on a 30-meter strip of highway near Tel Aviv.
The system is based on piezo electricity, which uses pads of metallic crystals buried over hundreds of meters of road to generate electricity when put under the pressure of quickly moving traffic.
"The name of the game is harvesting," team member Chaim Abramovich told Sky News. "Harvesting means energy which is available but is going to waste."
While the concept is not new, the application is a novelty. According to Abramovich, one truck can generate 2,000 volts which could already be used to power traffic lights or street lamps. A kilometer of “electric road” could gen
"The name of the game is harvesting"
erate enough power for 40 houses, and progress in the technology could generate enough electricity to feed the national power grid.
A company called Innowattech is working with the team to develop the technology.
Future plans include placing the crystal generators in railways. Trains are advantageous in that they are guaranteed to apply pressure in the same place over and over again.
Piezoelectricity refers to the ability of some materials - most notably crystals and certain ceramics, including bone - to generate an electric potential in response to applied pressure. The word is derived from the Greek piezo or piezein, which means to squeeze or press.
The first demonstration of the piezoelectric effect was in 1880 by the brothers Pierre Curie and Jacques Curie using crystals of tourmaline, quartz, topaz, cane sugar, and Rochelle salt (sodium potassium tartrate tetrahydrate). The strongest effect was found in quartz and Rochelle salt.
Piezoelectricity is used in the production and detection of sound, generation of high voltages, electronic frequency generation, and everyday uses such as cigarette lighters and push-start propane barbecues.