UK project to ‘revolutionise road networks with smart infrastructure’

Posted: 15 November 2019 |

A new Live Labs project will test technological advances encompassing wireless communication sensors, smart materials, and energy generation and storage, to create roads that generate electricity from passing traffic.

UK project to ‘revolutionise road networks with smart infrastructure’

A new project involving key investigators from Lancaster University’s Department of Engineering and led by Buckinghamshire County Council, will focus on Aylesbury Garden Town and aims to create roads that generate electricity from passing traffic using smart infrastructure.

The ‘SMART Connected Community: Live Labs’ project, which has received £4.5 million of innovation grant funding from the SMART Places Live Labs Programme, is one of eight Live Labs projects. The £22.9 million programme, funded by the Department for Transport, is led by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT).

The researchers have said they will aim to design, fabricate and test smart roads that generate electricity using piezoelectricity and hydromechanical dynamics from passing cars, trucks and buses. The electricity harvested by the ‘smart’ roads will be stored by roadside batteries to power street lamps, road signs, air pollution monitors, as well as sensors that can detect when potholes are forming.

The smart roads will also generate data on vehicle speeds, the types of vehicle travelling along the roads, as well as other information on traffic flows. This data will help the local highways authority to better manage traffic.

Research lead and Lancaster University Professor, Mohamed Saafi, said: “This is a very exciting project where we will develop novel smart road surfaces that harvest energy to power sensors that can monitor both the structural integrity of road surfaces and traffic flows – providing valuable new data streams that will help to significantly improve the efficiency of highways management and maintenance.

“We see these next generation energy harvesting road surfaces as an important part of future smart cities.”

The researchers will aim to develop ‘bespoke designs’ specific to the road conditions in Aylesbury, they said, which will then be tested using computer simulations to determine the optimum number and locations of energy harvesting sections before being constructed and installed in Buckinghamshire.