Posted in | Energy Efficiency

Funding for Converting Heat from Paved Surfaces into Electricity

In order to produce power from hot pavements, Samer Dessouky, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio, has received $298,000 through the Strategic Alliance between the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute and CPS Energy, established in 2010.

Credit: University of Texas at San Antonio

Dessouky will use the funding to enhance a technology he developed with his team that is capable of converting heat from paved surfaces into electricity. This technology allows paved areas, such as freeways, parking lots and airport runways to produce electricity, which can be utilized in rural areas in order to power signage and data collection systems independently of the electric grid.

Spaces dominated by pavements are much hotter than green spaces, because they absorb heat while green spaces are cooler.

Samer Dessouky, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of Texas at San Antonio

In 2016, Dessouky and his team started developing a thermal energy-harvesting system. This system was tested by installing several prototypes close to the Concrete Laboratory on the west side of the UTSA Main Campus. In their system, power was harvested from the temperature differential between the lower temperature deeper into the soil and the surface of the pavement. Supported by CPS Energy, the project allows his team to refine the working of the system.

Dessouky is employing drones to fly across huge landscapes like Universities and Airports, to map out where heat is most concentrated. This helps Dessouky and his team to discover the best places where his technology can be used.

Since airports consist of large areas of concrete pavement, they’re ideal for this kind of technology. In a blackout, this could be used as a back-up source of power for illuminating LED at runways and taxiways or could be used as the sole means of lighting rural civilian airport runways.

Samer Dessouky, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Earlier this year Dessouky, his collaborator, A.T. Papagiannakis, McDermott Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and their graduate student Utpal Datta, earned the first place in the Innovation Competition of the American Society of Civil Engineers and second place in the Airport Cooperative Research Program University Design Competition for their new, innovative technology.

Dessouky believes that the technology will also benefit uncongested, rural areas with few replacements to power sources. He is also exploring how it could benefit UTSA’s own campuses, which feature a number of green spaces besides concrete structures and several asphalt parking lots capable of absorbing a huge amount of heat.

By using that natural source of heat, you’re actually aiding the planet. In reducing our use of fossil fuels for powering the grids and taking advantage of renewable energy resources, we are moving toward a cleaner planet.

Samer Dessouky, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of Texas at San Antonio

According to Times Higher Education, UTSA is ranked among the nation’s top four young Universities.

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