‘Smart Highway’ concept glows in the dark, generates energy
Dutch designers' road lights up and captures wind energy from passing cars. U.S. engineers have some tricks of their own.
By now, you've heard how smart cars can talk to each other in traffic. Next up are smart roads that use embedded sensors, innovative paints and energy-harvesting devices that can provide real-time feedback on driving conditions -- and possibly power your next car.
The first Smart Highway prototype is already being planned in the Netherlands and should be ready as early as 2013, according to its creators at the Dutch design firms Studio Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure.
The pair won Best Future Concept in the Dutch Design Awards 2012, and they say that several of the technologies may be ready to hit a highway near you in the next five years. Here’s what to expect.
Road markings use luminescent paint, pictured above, that absorbs sunlight and can glow for up to 10 hours after dark, reducing the need for conventional lighting.
A temperature-sensitive paint remains invisible to the motorist until the mercury drops below freezing, when more hazardous driving conditions usually occur. Images appear in the road to alert drivers to conditions such as snow or black ice.
This energy-saving and environmentally sensitive system will keep a roadway in the dark until sensors detect an approaching vehicle. As the car passes, lights will grow brighter to provide illumination and then fade to black again when not in need. Besides the safety benefit of lighting a lonely road, this technology will cut down on excessive light pollution.
Remember sticking a pinwheel out the car window as a kid and watching the petals spin? This technology places hundreds upon thousands of pinwheels alongside roadways to capture the draft generated by moving vehicles, which theoretically could generate enough electricity to light a highway.
Induction priority lane
Induction coils are embedded into an electric-car priority lane that will charge the vehicles as they roll along, extending the battery range of EVs.
With wintry weather already here thanks to an early snowfall in the Northeast, we’ve also seen innovative roadway concepts in the United States that cut down on plowing. Idaho-based Solar Roadways has received a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype road with photovoltaic panels encased in glass that can melt snow and ice more efficiently. In Massachusetts, at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, associate professor Rajib Mallick received funding from the National Science Foundation for a design that uses heat-absorbing asphalt to keep roads clear of snow, slush and ice.
Solar Roadways says its glass highway would not only be snow-free in winter, but could also power embedded road signs. But at $6,900 a panel, the technology could be cost-prohibitive. Mallick's concept eschews expensive solar panels for fluid-filled pipes that are heated in warm weather and stored in insulated chambers. He estimates that the cost would be $12,500 for every 164 feet of pipe and that his heated road could pay for itself in six months.
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