Lancaster University engineers help develop smart roads

Researchers from Lancaster University have committed their expertise to a project which hopes to develop the next generation of road surfaces.

Members of the university’s Department of Engineering are working on the SMART Connected Community: Live Labs project, which is led by Buckinghamshire County Council and focuses on Aylesbury Garden Town.

The goal is to test technological advances including wireless communication sensors, smart materials, and energy generation and storage.

The university team will design, fabricate and test smart roads that generate electricity using piezoelectricity and hydromechanical dynamics from passing cars, trucks and buses. The harvested electricity 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.

These next generation road surfaces are an important part of future smart cities.

Professor Mohamed Saafi is leading the two-year research project at Lancaster University. He said: "We see these next generation energy harvesting road surfaces as an important part of future smart cities."

The researchers will develop bespoke designs specific to the road conditions in  Aylesbury. These designs will be tested using computer simulations to determine the optimum number and locations of energy harvesting sections before being constructed and installed in Buckinghamshire.

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

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