(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.
In honor of UTSA's 50th Anniversary in 2019, the university is hosting Roadrunner Days Spring Edition - two weeks of semester-launching activities built around our deeply held values of student success, student involvement, community service and fun!
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy invites everyone to its monthly lecture and stargazing event (weather permitting).
Flawn Building (FLN 2.02.02) and Curtis Vaughn Jr. Observatory, 4th floor of Flawn Building, Main Campus
All UTSA students, faculty, staff, alums & families are invited to march as a unified community. Register here: bit.ly/2TYbHbR. Shuttles will be provided from the Main and Downtown Campuses.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy, 3501 MLK Dr., San Antonio
UTSA's John Nix invites the community to sing "Amazing Grace" and “We Shall Overcome” at 11 a.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The intent of this nationwide effort is to honor Dr. King's legacy and to spread a sense of community in the United States.
Locations throughout the United States
Opening Reception got exhibit featuring artists Miguel Aragon, Aaron Coleman, Sandra Fernandez, Annalise Gratovich, Marco Hernandez, Kristen Powers Nowlin, & Patricia Villalobos Echeverria
Main Art Gallery, Arts Building (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
Tracy Cowden, Roland K. Blumberg Endowed Professor in Music and chair of the UTSA Department of Music launches the UTSA 50th Anniversary Scholars Speaker Series with Music as Medicine: The Power and Influence of Music on our Health.
Radius Center, 106 Auditorium Cir. #120, San Antonio
UTSA African American Studies Program presents this series featuring Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University.
Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus)
Join fellow Runners to walk for 10 minutes on the Main Campus. The event reminds us of the importance of exercise, diet and healthy habits in protecting our hearts.
Outside the North Paseo Building, Main Campus
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.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.