Application of Solar Fiber Noise Barrier Topper for the Generation of Electricity and Enhanced Traffic Noise Reduction

Focus Area



Environmental Process






Under 1 year

Research Idea Scope

The Observations leading to this proposal are 1) that a fibrous material (such as a long-bladed grassy bush or the fur of an animal) can noticeably reduce sound levels from a noise source when placed between said noise source and an observer, and 2) solar power generating technology has advanced to the point where flexible, photovoltaic thread exists that are thinner than a human hair.
The Question is then (in combining these two concepts), would the application of photovoltaic fibers with sufficient density (strands per inch) substantially reduce traffic noise while simultaneously generating a significant amount of solar electricity?
o Substantial noise reduction being considered as at least 3dB(A) as this is widely considered to be a noticeable change.
o Significant electricity production being considered as a comparison of cost savings in electricity generation (during the life of the material) and reduced need in noise barrier height/length over, the cost of fabrication and application to the top of a noise barrier.
The Hypothesis is: Application of photovoltaic thread to the top of a noise barrier will produce sufficient electricity to power nearby highway lights while allowing for a decibel reduction equivalent to a noise barrier two feet higher (on average) than the actually constructed barrier.
The Experiment will: 1) Test the sound level reduction of the proposed material by making mats of varying length of fishing line (one to six inches) applied perpendicularly to a flexible material surface. Sound level readings (in dB(A) over 15 minute Leq) will be taken on the opposite side of a noise barrier wall from a traffic noise source under reasonably controlled conditions. The wall will have a consistent height with a negative control portion of the wall (no fiber mat) and the test case portion (with the fiber mat). Initial data will provide feedback on the sound level reduction potential as well as the optimal strand length to use for the photovoltaic thread. Then, 2) a mat made of photovoltaic thread will be commissioned and applied to test both the decibel reduction of the material in readings as described above. As well, the electricity generating potential will be measured over a 30-day period.

Urgency and Payoff

The cost of construction materials and electricity generation is increasing both in terms of finance and air quality in a time when there is notable political support for clean energy initiatives. Combining the ability to offset coal-burning fuel costs and increasing sound-loss diffraction and absorption over traffic noise barriers is a win-win. It further explores the options of feasible and reasonable clean and renewably energy production, while adding another noise reduction tool to the toolboxes of the state DOT’s. If successful, this application could additionally extend the reasonable sound level reductions of noise barriers past the standard twenty-year benchmark of a noise barrier’s life by providing a cost-negative, post-construction abatement opportunity after traffic levels exceed their Design Year prediction.

Suggested By

Spencer Pucci

[email protected]