Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > URI researchers aim to harvest solar energy from pavement to melt ice, power streetlights, heat buildings

URI student Andrew Correia and Professor K. Wayne Lee conduct a laboratory experiment to measure the solar energy generated by a patch of asphalt. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.
URI student Andrew Correia and Professor K. Wayne Lee conduct a laboratory experiment to measure the solar energy generated by a patch of asphalt. URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.

Abstract:
The heat radiating off roadways has long been a factor in explaining why city temperatures are often considerably warmer than nearby suburban or rural areas. Now a team of engineering researchers from the University of Rhode Island is examining methods of harvesting that solar energy to melt ice, power streetlights, illuminate signs, heat buildings and potentially use it for many other purposes.

URI researchers aim to harvest solar energy from pavement to melt ice, power streetlights, heat buildings

Kingston, RI | Posted on November 15th, 2010

"We have mile after mile of asphalt pavement around the country, and in the summer it absorbs a great deal of heat, warming the roads up to 140 degrees or more," said K. Wayne Lee, URI professor of civil and environmental engineering and the leader of the joint project. "If we can harvest that heat, we can use it for our daily use, save on fossil fuels, and reduce global warming."

The URI team has identified four potential approaches, from simple to complex, and they are pursuing research projects designed to make each of them a reality.

One of the simplest ideas is to wrap flexible photovoltaic cells around the top of Jersey barriers dividing highways to provide electricity to power streetlights and illuminate road signs. The photovoltaic cells could also be embedded in the roadway between the Jersey barrier and the adjacent rumble strip.

"This is a project that could be implemented today because the technology already exists," said Lee. "Since the new generation of solar cells are so flexible, they can be installed so that regardless of the angle of the sun, it will be shining on the cells and generating electricity. A pilot program is progressing for the lamps outside Bliss Hall on campus."

Another practical approach to harvesting solar energy from pavement is to embed water filled pipes beneath the asphalt and allow the sun to warm the water. The heated water could then be piped beneath bridge decks to melt accumulated ice on the surface and reduce the need for road salt. The water could also be piped to nearby buildings to satisfy heating or hot water needs, similar to geothermal heat pumps. It could even be converted to steam to turn a turbine in a small, traditional power plant.

Graduate student Andrew Correia has built a prototype of such a system in a URI laboratory to evaluate its effectiveness, thanks to funding from the Korea Institute for Construction Technology. By testing different asphalt mixes and various pipe systems, he hopes to demonstrate that the technology can work in a real world setting.

"One property of asphalt is that it retains heat really well," he said, "so even after the sun goes down the asphalt and the water in the pipes stays warm. My tests showed that during some circumstances, the water even gets hotter than the asphalt."

A third alternative uses a thermo-electric effect to generate a small but usable amount of electricity. When two types of semiconductors are connected to form a circuit linking a hot and a cold spot, there is a small amount of electricity generated in the circuit.

URI Chemistry Professor Sze Yang believes that thermo-electric materials could be embedded in the roadway at different depths - or some could be in sunny areas and others in shade - and the difference in temperature between the materials would generate an electric current. With many of these systems installed in parallel, enough electricity could be generated to defrost roadways or be used for other purposes. Instead of the traditional semiconductors, he proposes to use a family of organic polymeric semiconductors developed at his laboratory that can be fabricated inexpensively as plastic sheets or painted on a flexible plastic sheet.

"This is a somewhat futuristic idea, since there isn't any practical device on the market for doing this, but it has been demonstrated to work in a laboratory," said Yang. "With enough additional research, I think it can be implemented in the field."

Perhaps the most futuristic idea the URI team has considered is to completely replace asphalt roadways with roadways made of large, durable electronic blocks that contain photovoltaic cells, LED lights and sensors. The blocks can generate electricity, illuminate the roadway lanes in interchangeable configurations, and provide early warning of the need for maintenance.

According to Lee, the technology for this concept exists, but it is extremely expensive. He said that one group in Idaho made a driveway from prototypes of these blocks, and it cost about $100,000. Lee envisions that corporate parking lots may become the first users of this technology before they become practical and economical for roadway use.

"This kind of advanced technology will take time to be accepted by the transportation industries," Lee said. "But we've been using asphalt for our highways for more than 100 years, and pretty soon it will be time for a change."

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Media Contact
Todd McLeish
401-874-2116

Copyright © University of Rhode Island

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Kate Ross as winner of the 2018 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize for North and South America February 20th, 2018

Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality February 20th, 2018

Unconventional superconductor may be used to create quantum computers of the future: They have probably succeeded in creating a topological superconductor February 19th, 2018

Photonic chip guides single photons, even when there are bends in the road February 16th, 2018

Academic/Education

Luleĺ University of Technology is using the Deben CT5000TEC stage to perform x-ray microtomography experiments with the ZEISS Xradia 510 Versa to understand deformation and strain inside inhomogeneous materials November 7th, 2017

Park Systems Announces the Grand Opening of the Park NanoScience Center at SUNY Polytechnic Institute November 3rd, 2017

Two Scientists Receive Grants to Develop New Materials: Chad Mirkin and Monica Olvera de la Cruz recognized by Sherman Fairchild Foundation August 16th, 2017

Moving at the Speed of Light: University of Arizona selected for high-impact, industrial demonstration of new integrated photonic cryogenic datalink for focal plane arrays: Program is major milestone for AIM Photonics August 10th, 2017

Announcements

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Kate Ross as winner of the 2018 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize for North and South America February 20th, 2018

Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality February 20th, 2018

Unconventional superconductor may be used to create quantum computers of the future: They have probably succeeded in creating a topological superconductor February 19th, 2018

Photonic chip guides single photons, even when there are bends in the road February 16th, 2018

Environment

Ultra-efficient removal of carbon monoxide using gold nanoparticles on a molecular support: New method and mechanism for state-of-the-art gas purification February 9th, 2018

New filters could enable manufacturers to perform highly-selective chemical separation January 23rd, 2018

Rice U.'s one-step catalyst turns nitrates into water and air: NSF-funded NEWT Center aims for catalytic converter for nitrate-polluted water January 5th, 2018

'Quantum material' has shark-like ability to detect small electrical signals December 20th, 2017

Energy

Round-the-clock power from smart bowties February 5th, 2018

Silk fibers could be high-tech ‘natural metamaterials’ January 31st, 2018

A simple new approach to plastic solar cells: Osaka University researchers intelligently design new highly efficient organic solar cells based on amorphous electronic materials with potential for easy printing January 28th, 2018

Nature paper by Schlumberger researchers used photothermal based nanoscale IR spectroscopy to analyze heterogeneous process of petroleum generation January 23rd, 2018

Solar/Photovoltaic

A simple new approach to plastic solar cells: Osaka University researchers intelligently design new highly efficient organic solar cells based on amorphous electronic materials with potential for easy printing January 28th, 2018

Tweaking quantum dots powers-up double-pane solar windows: Engineered quantum dots could bring down the cost of solar electricity January 2nd, 2018

Record high photoconductivity for new metal-organic framework material December 15th, 2017

Inorganic-organic halide perovskites for new photovoltaic technology November 6th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project