Every now and then a new transportation idea surfaces that deserves to be looked into at depth. How about a glass road surface?
A group of engineers in Sagle, Idaho, are working a glass road surface that generates solar power. The idea is to reduce the reliance on petroleum products while generating renewable energy.
Conventional road surfacing material is mostly made from petroleum products. Asphalt and tar are mostly composed from petroleum products and the latest versions have rubber content from recycled tires. Some road surfacing also incorporates recycled glass. With petroleum being a non-renewable resource and becoming increasingly more expensive, an alternative to paving our road surfaces sounds like a great idea. But is glass the answer?
Scott Brusaw, the inventor and co-founder of Solar Roadways, believes it is.
His bright idea is to take the existing and new road surfaces of all highways and streets in the U.S. and pave them with solar panels. This would mean an end to using conventional asphalt and instead paving all roads with solar panels. His calculations have the 25,000 sq. miles (64,750 sq. km) of paved surface in the U.S. generating three times the amount of energy required for all of the U.S. even at only a 15 per cent efficiency rate.
Brusaw also sees the proposed system of roads as an energy grid delivering power and services directly to each household or business through the solar grid.
Each of these solar arrays in the road surface would also contain LED lighting for lane lines and adaptable messages eliminating the need for painted lines that tend to wear off and “cat’s eyes” that become dislodged with snow plowing.
This is a unique solution but it still needs development, particularly when it comes to developing the actual road surface material. The glass surface needs to be strong enough to take the abuse of trucks and vehicles and it also needs to provide a level of grip that we now enjoy from asphalt.
The aggregate in asphalt also provides a coarse surface that allows water to drain into. The smooth surface that we associate with glass would not allow this and water would pool on it. The glass surface would need a rough texture to enhance tire grip yet allow for sunlight penetration for the embedded solar arrays while not distorting the LED lights.
Traffic sensors can easily be incorporated into this new surface much like what is in use now to trigger traffic signals and signs. The LED lighting could aid in traffic routing by showing motorists which lanes or roads are flowing the most efficient or which lanes are blocked up ahead. I could see this leading to “intelligent roadways.”
This new idea could also see an end to potholes and rutting since the glass surface will likely not crack and flex as asphalt does.
This is an interesting solution and one we could see in the foreseeable future. What is needed are some bright engineers to research the glass technology to make the surface strong, durable and provide a level of friction like that of asphalt.
Columns Everything you need to know about purchasing, maintaining and driving your car.
Become a member
Register now to access all features including:
- Save and ask friends to review vehicles
- Exclusive rebates & offers from local dealers
- Premium content, reviews and tools
- You can unsubscribe at any time. Please Contact Us for details.
All for free!
Already a member?
Registration 2 of 2
Welcome to Wheels!
As a final step we've sent a confirmation to your email address as a security measure. Please click the link in the email to complete your registration.
Terms of services
DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES AND LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, TORONTO STAR IS PROVIDING THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES ON AN "AS IS" AND "AS AVAILABLE" BASIS AND MAKES NO WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, IN ANY CONNECTION WITH THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES, THEIR CONTENTS, OR ANY WEB SITE OR CONTENTS WITH WHICH IT IS LINKED. TORONTO STAR DOES NOT WARRANT THAT THE FUNCTION OF THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES OR THEIR CONTENTS WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR FREE, THAT DEFECTS WILL BE CORRECTED, OR THAT THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES OR THE SERVERS THAT MAKE IT AVAILABLE ARE FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS.
TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, NEGLIGENCE, SHALL TORONTO STAR BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSS OF USE, LOSS OF DATA, LOSS OF INCOME OR PROFIT, LOSS OF OR DAMAGE TO PROPERTY, OR FOR ANY DAMAGES OF ANY KIND OR CHARACTER (INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION ANY COMPENSATORY, INCIDENTAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, PUNITIVE, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES), EVEN IF TORONTO STAR HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES OR LOSSES, ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OF THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES, THEIR CONTENTS, OR ANY WEBSITE OR CONTENTS WITH WHICH IT IS LINKED. IN NO EVENT SHALL TORONTO STAR'S TOTAL LIABILITY FOR ALL DAMAGES, LOSSES, AND CAUSES OF ACTION, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, TORT (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, NEGLIGENCE), OR OTHERWISE, EXCEED THE AMOUNT PAID BY YOU FOR ACCESSING THIS SITE.X