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, to generate power from hot pavements. Dessouky will use the funding to improve a technology he developed with his team that converts heat from paved surfaces into electricity. This technology allows paved areas, such as freeways, airport runways and parking lots to generate electricity, which can be used in rural areas for powering 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," said Dessouky.
In 2016, Dessouky and his team began developing a thermal energy-harvesting system. They tested this system by installing several prototypes near the Concrete Laboratory on the west side of the UTSA Main Campus. In their system, power was harvested from the temperature differential between the surface of the pavement and the lower temperature deeper into the soil. The project, supported by CPS Energy allows his team to fine tune the way the system works.
Dessouky is utilizing drones to fly across large landscape like airports and universities, to map out where heat is most concentrated. This aids Dessouky and his team in finding the best places to implement his technology.
"Since airports consist of large areas of concrete pavement, they're ideal for this kind of technology," he said. "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."
Earlier this year Dessouky, his collaborator, A.T. Papagiannakis, McDermott Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and their graduate student Utpal Datta, won 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 could also benefit uncongested, rural areas with few alternatives to power sources. He's also looking at how it could benefit UTSA's own campuses, which feature many green spaces in addition to concrete structures and several asphalt parking lots that can absorb a great amount of heat.
"By using that natural source of heat, you're actually aiding the planet," he said. "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."
UTSA is ranked among the nation's top four young universities, according to Times Higher Education.