(Dec. 7, 2015) -- Researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) have been awarded a $1.32 million contract from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) as part of the jointly funded Federal Highway Administration’s state research program. Its premise is to design and develop a system to harvest energy created by the movement of vehicles along the state’s roadways and convert it into low-cost renewable electric power. The system also would allow TxDOT to continuously monitor the health of roadways to improve traveler safety.
Led by UTSA associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Samer Dessouky, in conjunction with Lubinda Walubita at TTI, the research team will develop piezoelectric sensors that can be placed under asphalt layers. Those sensors will use the energy generated from moving vehicles to power roadside lights, traffic signals, billboards, charging stations for electric cars and roadway monitoring sensors.
Piezoelectric materials are capable of generating electric power in response to the applied pressures from traffic loading. This technology has been field tested already by a number of U.S. and international studies. It is attractive, because it generates power without emitting greenhouse gasses, as fossil fuel-generated power does. Furthermore, it requires no additional space as solar power does, since the power-generating modules are embedded into the road layers.
“This project could make Texas a leader in the use of piezoelectric technology to create ‘smart’ roads that not only generate clean power but also create a sustainable source of revenue for transportation infrastructure,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering. “UTSA is committed to developing innovative solutions that impact society.”
The research team includes experts in pavement materials, multi-functional nanomaterials, sensor design and surface chemistry from UTSA, TTI and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI®).
The first phase of this project involves the design and development of the harvesting modules and will take 18 months. If the subsequent phases of this project get the go-ahead, the researchers anticipate having a complete, functional harvesting and sensing system ready for implementation within three-and-a-half years. The systems would be installed permanently two inches below the pavement surface and would not interfere with the asphalt pavement milling and overlaying maintenance. Additionally, the system would be made from low-cost piezoelectric materials and sensors, and would not raise the cost of pavement maintenance operations.
As a top-tier research institution, UTSA is on the forefront of sustainability, creating new knowledge and finding top-tier solutions to global energy challenges. UTSA faculty and students are involved in groundbreaking research in sustainable technologies through partnerships with CPS Energy, Department of Energy, Microsoft, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, San Antonio Water System, Texas Department of Transportation, private energy companies, nonprofits and other universities.
Learn more about the UTSA College of Engineering.
The events are a collaborative effort between student organizations, student led-groups, and campus departments.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
UTSA is a designated early voting site for the May 4 Joint, General and Special Election. Any registered Bexar County voter can skip the lines and cast a ballot at UTSA from Monday, April 22 to Tuesday, April 30.
H-E-B Student Union (HSU 1.002), Main Campus
In this UTSA 50th anniversary speaker series, Roger Enriquez, UTSA associate professor of criminal justice, explores how immigration past and present helps us understand its future.
Casa Hernán, 411 Cevallos St., San Antonio
Discussion will explore the new Master of Arts in Global Affairs offered through the Department of Political Science and Geography at UTSA. Guest speakers will include representatives from local and federal government, military, and civil society.
H-E-B Student Union Travis Room (HSU 2.202), Main Campus
An evening of fine food and drink inspired by UTSA’s renowned Mexican Cookbook Collection. Proceeds from the event will support UTSA’s Mexican Cookbook Collection.
Hotel Emma, 136 E Grayson St., San Antonio
Grab a friend and sign up to bowl with fellow Roadrunners and raise money for scholarships.
University Bowl, 12332 I-10 #10, San Antonio
The UTSA Department of Art and Art History present the work of emerging artists who are graduating from UTSA. Work ranges from traditional methods and materials, interdisciplinary and new media. Themes range from social and cultural critique to investigations that are challenging and exquisite explorations in creative form and image.
Arts Building, Main Art Gallery (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
UTSA's first spring Commencement ceremony begins at 10 a.m., May 18 and honors graduates from the College of Liberal and Fine Arts and University College.
Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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