A group of researchers from the University of Rhode Island is examining a method of harvesting solar energy in the form of heat radiating off pavement and roadways that could be harnessed to power streetlights, buildings, signs, and a variety of other purposes.
The team has come up with four potential approaches to harnessing the solar energy provided by miles and miles of asphalt and pavement:
- Wrapping photovoltaic cells around the top of Jersey barriers dividing highways and rumble strips to power streetlights and signs.
- Embedding water-filled pipes beneath the pavement, allowing the sun to heat the water. This water could then be used to melt ice on road surfaces or to piped to nearby locations to provide hot water needs.
- Replace asphalt roads with new, durable electronic blocks that contain photovoltaic cells, LED lights, and sensors, creating self-illuminating roads. Considering a driveway made using this technology cost around $100,000, it’s probably not an option in the near future.
- Utilization of hot and cold semiconductor technology for a small thermo-electric effect.
Harnessing solar energy from the morning commute may not be too far away.