Imagine a world where the millions upon millions of square feet of roadway and parking lots across the world actually served a greater purpose than a flat surface to drive and park a vehicle. That’s the world that Scott and Julie Brusaw, creators of Solar Roadways, imagine and their dream is becoming closer to reality after years of testing and research.
Solar Roadways is a total recreation of the asphalt and concrete roads that we have used in America for the past few decades. Simply put, the roadway system is made up of 70 pound hexagonal panels with solar energy storage built within it. The panels are made of an ultra-strong tempered glass panels, that can withstand the weight of a semi-truck.
It’s proactive, so much so that it’s the only type of roadway system that has a possible positive return on investment. Not only do these panels create energy, they can also melt snow and ice, making roads safer for all drivers. A few other companies have begun testing snow melting roadways, as well, like this one that slowly releasing de-icing salt over time and another that uses electricity to heat the roads. With the capability to be programmed display over 16 million different colors, the roads can also detect possible hazards like animals on the road or other obstructions. The programmable lights would also eliminate the need for costly parking lot and road line painting maintenance.
The US Department of Transportation has given the Idaho tech startup several grants to perfect the concept of solar roads and now cities are giving the concept real world tests. One of the first tests these roads will go up against is a rest stop along historic Route 66 in Conway, Missouri. The rest stop will be testing out the panel’s benefits, as well as its durability, in both a roadway and sidewalk application.
Though the roadways are starting these real world trials, Missouri DOT Engineer Tom Blair told the News Tribune that the final product is still a few years away. The big question will be determining the true durability of the panels, traction, and true cost of maintenance. There’s no question that this system will be much more costly per square foot to install, so a strong case will have to be made to local DOTs in order for them to even consider the up-front cost. If all goes well, we could be just a few short years away from seeing completely interactive roadways that can power our cities and keep us safer.
Check out the video below, it’ll help you learn a little more about the benefits and functionality of Solar Roadways, as well as provide you some entertainment value.
There’s no shortage of company’s trying to improve the world’s roadways. Asphalt and concrete each have their own disadvantages, especially when maintenance environmental factors are taken into consideration. Plastic is a major problem for landfills, as well, as it can take an estimated 500 years to fully decompose. One UK company believes they can solve both maintenance and environmental problems through the use of recycled plastic.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is constantly researching ways to improve construction process and materials, like this material 10 times the strength of steel, or this solar cell that’s lighter than a soap bubble, or this “reversible concrete.” This time the Institute is showing off its autonomous robot that can spit out building structures on site within hours.
One of the most challenging issues with modular construction, of any kind, is the sheer size and weight of many of the components that need to be transported and lifted in place once onsite. That presents a specifically tough situation for jobsites that are not easy to get to. Arup, a design, engineering, and consulting team in the United Kingdom, has developed and successfully implemented what they say is the “world’s first modular glass-fiber, reinforced polymer bridge.” You may remember Arup from their testing of a “living wall” scaffolding cover that we wrote about last year.
Snow causes all kinds of travel nightmares and not just on the roads. Snow and ice can cause major airline delays and flight cancellations. Because of these issues (and the large amounts of money to be gained by solving them) several different groups of researchers have been hard at work figuring out ways to reduce and remove snow and ice from pavement without the need for chemicals and snow plows. The first technology to get a full scale test slab installed at an American airport, however, came from Iowa State University professor Halil Ceylan.
Maybe I’ve had my head in the sand for a while (forgive the pun right out of the gate), but I've recently found out that the world is suffering from a shortage of sand. The New York Times reports that the increasing demand of sand from manufacturing and construction in combination with rising sea levels and human development of shores is reaching crisis levels. Sand is used in plenty of construction activities, from mortar to concrete to brick and asphalt. We use a LOT of it. In fact, concrete production takes a whopping 80 percent of all the sand that is mined. So what can we do? One company says the answer is to drink more beer.
Solar roofs are an obviously popular choice for those interested in conserving energy, but traditional panels are extremely clunky and expensive. Tesla and CEO Elon Musk announced last year that they have solved that issue, which the impending release of Tesla Solar Roof, which look like a traditional roof shingle.
3D printing technology faces major issues when it is required to leave the shelter of a warehouse and step foot on a construction job site. 3D printers are extremely large, heavy, and rely on precise calibration for accuracy. Even the first 3D printed office building in Dubai, which was completed last year, had to actually have its components printed off site and assembled on site. But, Apis Cor, a 3D printing company, believes it has created the technology to print a full structure completely on site.
The concept of solar roadways has been in the news a lot recently. Using the millions of miles of roadways throughout the world to also create power seems like a no brainer, the asphalt and concrete we’re using now aren’t really accomplishing anything more than handling the traffic on the road. But, there’s also a very strong reason why those products are used: they’re strong, reliable, and relatively durable. Still, many researchers believe there is a lot of unharnessed potential for roads and the world now has a very strong test subject for the future of solar roadways in Tourouvre-au-Perche, France.
3D printed construction has been on top of the news the past few years, but we have yet to truly see many real world applications of the process. Last year, Dubai unveiled a completed 3D printed office building, which they say was built in only 19 days, but news has been pretty slow until the world’s first 3D printed bridge was completed recently.
It’s no secret that the United States dominates when it comes to LEED certified construction projects. The US actually has more total gross square meters and number of LEED projects than the the other top 10 countries combined, by almost 3 times, totaling 336.84 million gross square meters over 27,699 LEED projects! China, Canada, and India are ranked number 2, 3, and 4, respectively.
The US Green Building Council recently released their annual top 10 list of states for LEED construction in 2016.