Researchers from the California Energy Commission are carrying out two pilot studies on piezoelectric crystals, a type of technology that can capture vibrations produced by people walking and vehicles in tarmac and turn them into energy.
The technology is not something new, but experts are considering embedding crystals in roads and sidewalks again. Piezoelectricity is more commonly found in electric lighters like the ones in cars and some wristwatch components.
This type of crystals shows promise above other kinds of alternative energy sources because it has already been implemented, albeit in small scale, in the United States.
What are piezoelectric crystals and how do they work
Piezoelectricity is a kind of electricity that generates from pressure. Piezoelectric crystals, then, are the type of crystals that can accumulate energy when they are under stress and then release it as electricity.
There are 32 known classes of crystals, out of which only 20 exhibit piezoelectric qualities at their core. The idea behind using these glasses is to use them to create devices that can be embedded on the ground so they can quickly capture vibrations coming from above.
Whether they are underground systems or at a superficial level like cat’s eyes on roads and highways, these devices would be interconnected over miles and miles and supply energy to power plants of cities in the Golden State.
The California Energy Commission is eyeing Los Angeles as a potential pilot city for the implementation of such infrastructure because its infamous vehicle volume and rushed traffic could end up becoming an advantage under these circumstances.
Changing our lifestyles is also necessary to generate clean energy
Researchers say that a 10-mile stretch of piezoelectric crystals in an area with moderate traffic, pedestrian or vehicular, could potentially produce a sufficient amount of energy to power a city of 100,000 inhabitants like Burbank.
Los Angeles, however, has a population of roughly 4 million people, for which a much wider rollout would be needed. The state’s Energy Commission plans will run for 18 months and invest $2 million to see how feasible the technology is and how many devices would be needed for it to work.
Nevertheless, some experts argue that, regardless of how convenient these crystals may seem, lifestyle changes are also necessary if people want to make a difference. It includes eating healthier food, making more exercise, recycling, and pushing the city to implement the infrastructure needed to go green.
California has set a goal that by 2030 it will supply half of the state’s energy using renewable sources of electricity. Technologies like these could also help alleviate traffic by encouraging a more pedestrian life and powering futuristic systems like The Boring Company’s tunnel networks.