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.
Concrete is an extremely strong building material, but has a notoriously weak tensile strength. In order to resist tension, bending, and shear forces, steel rebar or other reinforcement materials are added either prior to the placement or into the mix. Even with reinforcement, concrete is still extremely rigid and prone to cracking. In the event of a major earthquake, the uneven and horizontal forces can cause structures to crack and, in the worst case, cause failure.
Concrete can adapt to any shape its formwork calls for while it’s being placed. While it’s POSSIBLE to make intricate designs with the material, it’s not always easy or practical to do so. Researchers from ETH Zurich have designed a new method of forming and placing an ultra-thin, curved concrete roof system that they plan on installing on a construction project next year.
As electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular around the world, researchers are trying to find ways to adapt the technology to heavier duty applications. Due to the large size of projects and amount of money in the industry, the mining industry has seen its fair share of technological advancement. Several manufacturers, like Komatsu, have developed and released driverless dump trucks for mining operations in the past few years. A team of companies in Switzerland is now working on a gigantic battery powered dump truck that will be tested for 10 years.
Rapid growth and the industrialization are the major contributors to China’s noted air quality issues. 4 years ago, the Chinese government issued a “war on pollution” aiming to improve air quality and reduce other environmental hazards, such as land and water contamination. Air quality is at its worst in the winter months across the country, due to households relying more on coal power to heat residents’ homes.
Asphalt is one of the world’s most popular pavement materials. Because of that, researchers and scientists are constantly looking for ways to improve upon it. Additives have been included in some asphalt mixes for years to improve strength, but recently researchers have been getting pretty clever with the types of additives they’re testing.
As great as a product as asphalt is, there’s no doubt that there is room for improvement. Scientists all over the world are trying to solve its most common issues, such as potholes, cracking, ice build-up, and storm water drainage. Los Angeles is now tackling another issue with the material: heat island effect.
In March of this year, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would begin taking orders on their Solar Roof Shingle concept. Tesla Solar Roof is a solar power roof system that eliminates the need for bulky solar panels installed over top of traditional roof materials. Instead, the shingles themselves, which come in a variety of different styles, are the solar panels.
At the company’s second quarter earnings report, Tesla announced that the first solar roof installations have been completed.
Standard vertical elevators have had it too good, for too long. After the first cable dependent elevator was unveiled in 1857, not much has changed in the elevator industry. They’re still using cable systems and still only going up and down. But not anymore. ThyssenKrupp has officially made a multi-directional elevator a reality.
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.