Solar Freakin’ Roadways

When driving my car during winter I have always asked myself if there is a solution to keep our roads ice-free other than throwing salt on them. Especially during my first tough winter here in Northeast Ohio with temperatures of 30° C below zero, I have seen an enormous amount of salt used to melt down the snow and prevent ice formations. I always doubted that this is the best solution for our cars, roads and the environment. So I have been thinking of how it would be possible to keep the temperature of our roads slightly above freezing to avoid the use of salts. This would also improve our road conditions enormously, especially here in Northeast Ohio where the streets are covered with potholes due to severe weather conditions. But how could that work energy wise? I asked myself if there is a way to harvest the energy the cars apply to the road’s surface. Maybe we could leverage the weight forces or vibrational forces they apply on the roads. I discussed this with a friend of mine who sent me the following video a few days later:

 

 

Great stuff, right? When I saw this video I was impressed by the multi-functionality of this technology. Think about those materials building the roads, parkways or playgrounds of our future. My first question though was whether such a technology is financially feasible for implementation. Even if, according to the inventor, the technology is based on recyclable materials, how expensive would it be to implement this system on a large scale? Probably more expensive than laying down asphalt as we are already accustomed to; but only in the short term with higher initial capital investment. Think about this: Cleveland spent about $388 million on roadwork since 2007 and  the city’s roads are still in terrible condition, with major repairs having to be done every summer (for more info take a look at the official website of cleveland.com). That’s a big chunk of change that could be used to realize a more sustainable solution. Using solar roadways would also pay for itself due to the enormous amounts of energy being produced by using such a technology. One would have to do the math behind it considering all important factors to see if and how this technology could replace our current inefficient pavement. I am sure there has to be some economically feasible pathway for implementing this technology.

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One comment

  1. Emily Kennedy

    What’s interesting to me is how many of Life’s Principles are embodied by this technology. It “uses readily available energy” (sunlight), “uses multi-functional design” (purposes include de-icing, lane format flexibility with LEDs, job creation), “uses feedback loops” (pressure sensors), AND “combines modular and nested components” (modular hexagonal pieces). Pretty impressive.

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