Israeli start-up offers ‘Energy from the Roads’
Jul 22, 2011 | Geoffrey Levin
As the world continues to search for ways to meet the growing global energy demand without further damaging the environment, a new technology that harvests energy from the pressure caused by cars driving on roads is currently being tested in Israel. Developed by the Israeli start-up Innowattech, the innovation could soon be powering streetlights and homes in Israel. As Sara Toth Stub writes in the Wall Street Journal:
Using piezoelectric technology-the same technology that enables cigarette lighters to produce a spark-the pressure of vehicles on metallic crystals embedded under the surface produces electrical energy, explains Haim Abramovich, professor of aerospace engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and founder of the start-up Innowattech.
The system is currently in a testing phase and the produced electricity is not actually being used to power anything, but Mr. Abramovich sees a lot of potential. When compared to other alternative sources of electricity generation, such as solar power, this system “does not need a lot space, is invisible to the outside user and the energy is produced right where it is needed,” he said.
While the alternative energy source won’t be replacing power plants any time soon, as the amount of energy that can be drawn from the process is limited, any technology that cuts down on the use of fossil fuels and supplements current power sources is certainly desirable . And there are signs that the innovation will spread on a global level, where it could make a significant impact – Germany has already signed a contract with Innowattech, while the state of Califoria is currently considering proposals to install the Israeli technology. Of course, there are still some obstacles Innowattech needs to overcome:
Mr. Abramovich said there are still some challenges to his system. Those include increasing the efficiency of harvesting the produced energy into usable electricity, which stands at 60%. Innowattech must also find ways to install the systems efficiently, perhaps when routine maintenance work occurs on roads. And the system works best on busy roads with the heaviest vehicles, Mr. Abramovich said.