--Sara Rosner


 Dr. Wayne Lee

We’ve all heard about using pavement to fry an egg, but a research team from the University of Rhode Island is working on a project that would use asphalt surfaces as a medium for solar generation.

Dr. Wayne Lee is looking at several different approaches to harnessing the power of the sun via asphalt on highways, bridges and roads. Ideas include wrapping flexible photovoltaic cells around concrete barriers that divide highways, embedding PV cells on highway shoulders, and burying water pipes in the asphalt that would function similarly to geothermal pumps.

The group of researchers is also looking at replacing asphalt roadways with large, durable electronic blocks that contain PV cells which would generate power to illuminate roads, lane markings and signs. Such a prototype has been implemented in a driveway in Idaho, at the cost of $100,000 but a practical application is at least five to 10 years ahead, Lee says from Kingston, R.I.

For now, putting on the mileage will still be leaving a carbon footprint. But in the future, driving the extra mile could make your trip a little bit greener.

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