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Researchers in Britain are working on smart materials that when embedded in road surfaces would be able to harvest and convert vehicle vibration into electrical energy to power street lamps or electric vehicle charging points.

The research project aims to design and optimise energy recovery of around one to two megawatts per kilometre under ‘normal’ traffic volumes — which is around 2,000 to 3,000 cars an hour.

This amount of energy, when stored, is the amount needed to power between 2,000 and 4,000 street lamps.

The researchers said they were working on smart materials such as ‘piezolectric’ ceramics for the project.

“This research is about helping to produce the next generation of smart road surfaces,” said lead researcher Mohamed Saafi, Professor at Lancaster University.

“We will be developing new materials to take advantage of the piezoelectric effect where passing vehicles cause stress on the road surface, producing voltage. The materials will need to withstand high strengths, and provide a good balance between cost and the energy they produce,” Saafi said in a statement released by the university.

“The system we develop will then convert this mechanical energy into electric energy to power things such as street lamps, traffic lights and electric car charging points. It could also be used to provide other smart street benefits, such as real-time traffic volume monitoring,” he added.

The researchers believe that besides providing environmental benefits, the project would also help deliver significant cost savings for taxpayers.

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