Electric Grid no image

Published on August 31st, 2009 | by Christopher DeMorro

36

Driving On Electric Glass: Solar Highway Awarded Prototype Funding

Asphalt is ugly and flaky, and requires constant supervision. Snow and road repair can slow down traffic worse than an ugly accident, and the resources that go into building maintaining high-use highways are intimidating to consider.

But there may be another way. A radical intelligent highway design utilizing solar panels, LED lighting, and heating elements has been awarded funding by the Department of Transportation to the tune of $100,000. Will the Solar Highway soon replace asphalt, and how will we all adapt to driving on glass?

The Department of Transportation awarded the $100,000 to Solar Roadways. This money is to build a 12′ x 12′ protoype road section, the average width of a highway lane. Solar Roadways creator Scott Brushaw proposes that his prototype will be able to capture and produce energy from the sun. This energy would then be used to light the roadways, “paint” lines, and flash warnings to motorists about upcoming hazards like an accident or daring animal, as well as providing power to America’s home and businesses.

But that’s not all. They also propose that, if every inch of America’s 25,000 miles of roadway were replaced with their idea-turned-fact, America would make three times as much energy as it used back in 2006. One 4-lane wide stretch of Solar Highway would theoretically make enough energy to power 500 homes. There would be no need for power plants, transformers, power lines, etc. The energy would flow where it was needed, straight from street to home. Furthermore, heating elements would keep the roadways clear of snow and ice, eliminating the need for plowing services and pothole fixes.

The prototypes will be made in three levels. The bottom layer contains the electronics and data needed to make the system work. On top of that are the solar cells LEDs, and sensors that detect any road hazards ahead. The top level is going to be made from something clear, likely bulletproof glass. But wait a second, how are you going to make a smooth clear surface that has the same traction as asphalt, and can put up with constant heavy loads from trucks and traffic?

Another property that concerns me is that complicated roadway will have a supposed lifetime of 21 years, three times more than asphalt. Technology moves fast, but this sounds a little too good to be true. Did I mention it is supposed to cost just $48 per-square foot as well?

Take a look at the Numbers section of their website. At the very least, they make a good argument for their prototype, and I wish them best of luck. Just don’t turn my streets into hockey rinks.

Source: Solar Roadways



MAKE SOLAR WORK FOR YOU!





Next, use your Solar Report to get the best quote!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • John

    It’s hard to believe that this would work, but it sure would be cool if it did.

  • John

    It’s hard to believe that this would work, but it sure would be cool if it did.

  • John

    It’s hard to believe that this would work, but it sure would be cool if it did.

  • Jerry

    He have not built a prototype, but already contacted all the congressmen and presidents, that’s probably how he gets the money…

  • Jerry

    He have not built a prototype, but already contacted all the congressmen and presidents, that’s probably how he gets the money…

  • Jerry

    He have not built a prototype, but already contacted all the congressmen and presidents, that’s probably how he gets the money…

  • Chris

    This is ridiculous. Why would be build solar cells to be not only covered by cars but damaged by their weight and friction? This is not economical compared to the desert. One good idea however would be a system which collects the energy from tire friction and transmits that into electricity. If this system were efficient then there should only be the loss associated with air resistance.

  • Chris

    This is ridiculous. Why would be build solar cells to be not only covered by cars but damaged by their weight and friction? This is not economical compared to the desert. One good idea however would be a system which collects the energy from tire friction and transmits that into electricity. If this system were efficient then there should only be the loss associated with air resistance.

  • http://www.unitech.co.in power factor panel

    Beautiful! thank’s for the interesting post

  • http://www.unitech.co.in power factor panel

    Beautiful! thank’s for the interesting post

  • Steve Shurts

    As far as the traction thing goes – no problem… You fund Goodyear to design a new tire that has little suction cups siting below the tires surface. When the driver hits the brakes, the suction cups are deployed to “grip” the road. Like those little balls that your kids throw against the window and they roll down the window until they deposit themselves safely on the sill.

    Between this and the 3MW steam powered car, we are making real progress toward solving all of our energy needs, don’t you think?

  • Steve Shurts

    As far as the traction thing goes – no problem… You fund Goodyear to design a new tire that has little suction cups siting below the tires surface. When the driver hits the brakes, the suction cups are deployed to “grip” the road. Like those little balls that your kids throw against the window and they roll down the window until they deposit themselves safely on the sill.

    Between this and the 3MW steam powered car, we are making real progress toward solving all of our energy needs, don’t you think?

  • http://www.yert.com Mark Dixon

    I met Scott Brusaw from Solar Roadways and interviewed him at his home in Idaho. He’s a smart, down-to-earth guy who is simply looking for a solution to climate change and this is the biggest, best idea he’s come across. He discusses some of the benefits and challenges in this video:

    It also includes video animation of the Solar Roadways.

    Enjoy!

    Mark

  • http://www.yert.com Mark Dixon

    I met Scott Brusaw from Solar Roadways and interviewed him at his home in Idaho. He’s a smart, down-to-earth guy who is simply looking for a solution to climate change and this is the biggest, best idea he’s come across. He discusses some of the benefits and challenges in this video:

    It also includes video animation of the Solar Roadways.

    Enjoy!

    Mark

  • Jerry

    To me, the biggest barrier is in civil/structural enginering. I don’t see that mentioned in his website.

    Asphalt roads provide better traction and skid resistance than concrete. Asphalt tends to help keep roads free from ice and snow.

    Compare to glass? and when wet?

    How he can get DOT funding is beyond me.

  • Jerry

    To me, the biggest barrier is in civil/structural enginering. I don’t see that mentioned in his website.

    Asphalt roads provide better traction and skid resistance than concrete. Asphalt tends to help keep roads free from ice and snow.

    Compare to glass? and when wet?

    How he can get DOT funding is beyond me.

  • Jerry

    Also I assume the $16/SF cost for asphalt include road design, excavation, base rock foundation, and other road sign, (all of which are still needed),although still seems high. 2″ thick asphalt is typically around $2/SF.

  • Jerry

    Also I assume the $16/SF cost for asphalt include road design, excavation, base rock foundation, and other road sign, (all of which are still needed),although still seems high. 2″ thick asphalt is typically around $2/SF.

  • Soylent

    “One good idea however would be a system which collects the energy from tire friction and transmits that into electricity.”

    That’s just a really inefficient oil-fired generator. Why don’t you just set up a toll-both instead of trying to steal small amounts of gas from vehicles?

  • Soylent

    “One good idea however would be a system which collects the energy from tire friction and transmits that into electricity.”

    That’s just a really inefficient oil-fired generator. Why don’t you just set up a toll-both instead of trying to steal small amounts of gas from vehicles?

  • http://www.designefficiency.wordpress.com Ant

    I have to agree with the commenter above – how on earth did someone give funding to this…?

    Three problems come immediately to mind:

    1. Skid resistance of wet glass = zero. The microtexture of asphalt allows water to disperse.Even roughend glass will not achieve this.

    2. Road geometry is actually very complex – horizontal and vertical curves; crossfalls and superelevation plus the transitions in between. How are flat panes of glass going to match this – building individually curved units is prohibitive costwise

    3. The great thing about asphalt is its flexibility – if the underlying ground settles it will ‘flow’ to suit. Glass panes will not be able to do this and will lead to rocking of individual units like a chair on an uneven floor.

    I am all for innovation but there is a reason asphalt is still being used in the 21st century…

  • http://www.designefficiency.wordpress.com Ant

    I have to agree with the commenter above – how on earth did someone give funding to this…?

    Three problems come immediately to mind:

    1. Skid resistance of wet glass = zero. The microtexture of asphalt allows water to disperse.Even roughend glass will not achieve this.

    2. Road geometry is actually very complex – horizontal and vertical curves; crossfalls and superelevation plus the transitions in between. How are flat panes of glass going to match this – building individually curved units is prohibitive costwise

    3. The great thing about asphalt is its flexibility – if the underlying ground settles it will ‘flow’ to suit. Glass panes will not be able to do this and will lead to rocking of individual units like a chair on an uneven floor.

    I am all for innovation but there is a reason asphalt is still being used in the 21st century…

  • Kurtis Knappe

    Interesting. This seems like it would work better on driveways and parking lots. You sidestep the traction issue and may be able to expand the life of the product.

    Also, if the road is heating itself in the winter, that means a large loss of energy is being fed into the grid which would need to made up somehow.

    I think this has potential though.

  • Kurtis Knappe

    Interesting. This seems like it would work better on driveways and parking lots. You sidestep the traction issue and may be able to expand the life of the product.

    Also, if the road is heating itself in the winter, that means a large loss of energy is being fed into the grid which would need to made up somehow.

    I think this has potential though.

  • Jerry

    The inventor reached beyond his knowledge base, he need to talk to someone in road industry, engineers, and building material researchers, not someone in ceramic/silica material lab or someone whose career is on circuit board. Look at his acknowledgement list.

    Then I doubt his sincerity when he has contacted so many congressmen, maybe he is just after the money.

  • Jerry

    The inventor reached beyond his knowledge base, he need to talk to someone in road industry, engineers, and building material researchers, not someone in ceramic/silica material lab or someone whose career is on circuit board. Look at his acknowledgement list.

    Then I doubt his sincerity when he has contacted so many congressmen, maybe he is just after the money.

  • http://theclutterwar.blogspot.com/ Christopher DeMorro

    I think some of you might be jumping the gun a little bit on the criticism. They gave him a $100k; pocket change when you consider all the money being handed out these days by the government.

    I do think this has more promise as a parking lot technology. A large lot might be enough to power the likes of a small strip mall, and management wouldn’t have to shell out for plowing.

    Still waiting for my flying cars though.

  • http://theclutterwar.blogspot.com/ Christopher DeMorro

    I think some of you might be jumping the gun a little bit on the criticism. They gave him a $100k; pocket change when you consider all the money being handed out these days by the government.

    I do think this has more promise as a parking lot technology. A large lot might be enough to power the likes of a small strip mall, and management wouldn’t have to shell out for plowing.

    Still waiting for my flying cars though.

  • http://www.carlsonpaving.com Paul Murphy

    This is a great idea. I still see that this method would be very expensive. Not even begining to address all the technical challenges involved.

    Maybe if the asphalt were to be impregnated with a photovoltaic material. With paint as conductors. Someone has to make an asphalt with photovoltaic properties. Otherwise this is way too expensive. Maybe will work on a bridge deck?

  • http://www.carlsonpaving.com Paul Murphy

    This is a great idea. I still see that this method would be very expensive. Not even begining to address all the technical challenges involved.

    Maybe if the asphalt were to be impregnated with a photovoltaic material. With paint as conductors. Someone has to make an asphalt with photovoltaic properties. Otherwise this is way too expensive. Maybe will work on a bridge deck?

  • http://www.chrispco.com Paul Anderson

    This is an interesting idea, but…

    Like Christopher, I’m still waiting for my flying car.

    Paul

  • http://www.chrispco.com Paul Anderson

    This is an interesting idea, but…

    Like Christopher, I’m still waiting for my flying car.

    Paul

  • Davidl

    As far as cosmetics go, I think a white road under transparent glass would look better then grey. I also wonder if the glass surface could be engineered to also magnify the light on the solar cells. A public works program with prisons could provide cheap labor. Another possibility is smart roads that would allow driverless autos. This could really lower the costs of transportation of goods.

  • Davidl

    As far as cosmetics go, I think a white road under transparent glass would look better then grey. I also wonder if the glass surface could be engineered to also magnify the light on the solar cells. A public works program with prisons could provide cheap labor. Another possibility is smart roads that would allow driverless autos. This could really lower the costs of transportation of goods.

  • Pingback: Researchers Make Wireless In-Road EV Charging Breakthrough – Gas 2.0()

  • Pingback: Driving On Electric Glass: Solar Highway Awarded Prototype Funding | framtidensinfrastruktur()

Back to Top ↑