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Piezoelectric Funding Opportunity Gets Down to Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Technology that might someday pave California's roads with crystals

California Energy Commisson

There's a saying that some roads are paved in gold. The Energy Commission is looking at technology that might someday pave California's roads with crystals.

In June, the Energy Commission released a grant funding opportunity to research and develop pilot-scale projects that use piezoelectric materials embedded in roadways to harvest electrical energy.

Piezoelectric materials are crystals that generate electricity when subjected to mechanical stresses, vibrations and compression -- like when driven over by a vehicle. The crystals are placed beneath the asphalt. As cars travel across the crystals, electricity is produced -- the more cars, the more electricity. The energy is captured by sensors and can be stored for use in roadside lights and call boxes.

Projects funded through the solicitation will assess the technical and economic feasibility of piezoelectric systems including power output, life expectancy, durability, cost, and marketing potential.