Thursday, October 08, 2009

Piezoelectric Traffic Jams

We all hate traffic jams (well not all of us if you count those hawkers and the criminally inclined), at least I know I do. The prospect of remaining static at a time when you are supposed to be moving is never anyone’s pound of meat. We all know what it means to be stuck in a jam on one of Nairobi’s major highways, whether its Mombasa road, Thika road, Uhuru highway, Jogoo road, we all agree that it aint what one looks forward to. We all bemoan the amount of manhours wasted and the amount of fuel our (mostly ‘preowned’) jalopies consume, not to mention the harassment by matatus and the resulting chaos thereof.

What good can come out of traffic jams, one may ask. What about the end of power rationing, the reduction of power bills!!! Impossible, eh! Not according to Innowattech. This company has developed an innovative way of generating clean (green) electricity, called piezoelectricity. This is the ability to produce electric power in response to applied mechanical stress. In this case, electricity is generated by using piezoelectric materials under busy roads. How, you may ask? Well, a layer of piezoelectric crystals is layered under the tarmac, and this produces electricity when squeezed. Piezoelectric generators then harvest this energy and stores it into roadside batteries for onward use/distribution. The same technology can also be used on airport runways, railways and busy walkways. Apparently the Piezo Electric Generator (IPEG™) should be able to produce 200KWh, while a four-lane highway would produce about 1MWh of electricity, per kilometer, enough to provide power to 2500 households.

Now that is a system that can (theoretically) work here in Nairobi. No infrastructure is required. You don’t need to set up wind farms or solar panels and use up vast areas. You simply have to use the roads that you already have. In Nairobi we have perennially busy highways, walkways and fairly busy airports. Well, let’s not talk about the railways. Wouldn’t it be nice knowing that you are generating electricity, even as you stew in a cocktail of fumes and angry hooting in the midst of a never ending vehicular queue? As for the politico-economic viability of this venture is concerned…..well God knows? I don’t think the likes of Agrekko would smile at this idea.

Watch Innowattech’s presentation here.

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