How to make roads work for you

Solar Roadways, a US-based startup, imagines a world that is navigated by efficient, power-generating roads.

Solar Roadways is a Idaho-based grassroots company started in 2006 by engineers Scott and Julie Brusaw, which offers an alternative to traditional asphalt roads with roads that (amongst other things) generate their own energy.

We've previously looked at the work of Daan Roosegaarde and his Smart Highway project, which has already been installed in the city of Oss. The Smart Highway uses special photo-luminescent paint to charge during the day and illuminate the roadways at night.

Solar Roadways harnesses the sun too, but via solar panel technology that has been adapted and reinforced to be suitable for the punishing road conditions. Its technology takes the form of interlocking hexagonal units that can be configured on any outdoor surface.

Each unit is covered with a layer of durable tempered glass with a bumpy surface to keep high traction. Solar Roadway technology is versatile enough to replace the tarmac of roads, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and outdoor recreation areas. It would also remove the problem of potholes and reduce maintenance costs, as a Solar Roadway unit can be removed and replaced one at a time.

Each unit has the capacity to perform varied functions: using the energy from its solar panel to heat itself up (permanently removing the danger of icy roads in cold regions) or to light up (its LED lamps can be programmed to show lanes, parking spots or dynamic warning messages) on the ground.

Apart from Solar Roadways’ potential to improve the roads of the world and generate renewable energy, its hexagonal units can act as vessels for additional cabling such as power lines and data cables, replacing the need for telephone poles and weather-vulnerable hanging power lines.

Though this project is still in development and many trials are yet to be performed before it reaches the public sphere, prototypes have been built that show promise. Many remain skeptical on the ambitions of Solar Roadways, but its technology may be applied successfully in small arenas.

Solar Roadways was funded successfully on Indiegogo and has subsequently entered its InDemand programme for further development. For more information, watch the video below.