Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hot stuff

Anyone who's ever tried to walk -- or, rather, run -- barefoot across a road in the summer knows how hot asphalt can become. Now, researchers are trying to figure out a way to harvest some of that energy.

Hot stuff

Anyone who's ever tried to walk -- or, rather, run -- barefoot across a road in the summer knows how hot asphalt can become. Now, researchers are trying to figure out a way to harvest some of that energy.

Engineers from the University of Rhode Island are trying to figure out how to use it to power streetlights, illuminate signs, heat buildings and melt ice on bridges.

K. Wayne Lee, URI professor of civil and environmental engineering and the leader of the joint project, said that the temperature of many roads rises to 140 degrees or more. "If we can harvest that heat, we can use it for our daily use, save on fossil fuels, and reduce global warming," he said in a press release.

One idea is to run water pipes under roads to carry heat, or to embed thermo-electric materials that would create a current. 

Another idea -- although not directly related to heat -- is to wrap photovoltaic cells around highway barriers.

Ultimately, the URI team thinks it would be possible to replace asphalt with roads made of large, durable electronic blocks that contain photovoltaic cells, LED lights and sensors. The electricity the blocks generate could be used to illuminate the lanes. 

How's that for better night vision?
 

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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