Asphalt overridden

Asphalt overridden                                                  Bituminis attenuatus

Finally!  Something to replace miles upon tons of toxic, petroleum dependent material we have employed, repaired and recycled for over 100 years and more commonly known as asphalt roadways.  Finally an answer to inhaling the off gassing chemicals emanating from the sun baked streets on hot summer days, ever increasing urban-heat-island effects.  The U.S. alone has more than 260,000 kilometers of the carcinogenic caustic crude-oil causeways.

But who would have thought about riding on glass?  Triple layer translucent glass road surfaces with PV solar collectors wired directly into the electricity grid – to be more exact.  And here’s another bonus…it can store, manage and distribute its collected energy for snow removal.  And what’s more it can be embedded with light emitting diodes to act as life-safety and directional indicators.

Is it breakable, is it slippery when wet, and will it last?  In short, no it is actually 10 times stronger than conventional varieties, no it can be hatched and grooved to avoid slipping, and we don’t know yet how long it might last.  The concept still begs more questioning and more research.  But it is on its way with the help of a DOT grant, an Idaho electrical engineer (its inventor) and continued research by Penn State University’s Materials Research Lab.  Research costs for the product will tally in the millions but eventually they see production costs of the solar roadway at $1 psf.

Beyond the road, an invention such as this begins to enhance its counterpart – electric cars.  A great compliment if the road can offer charging stations anywhere along the way using its ability to create an extensive electric grid and transmit power and data signals within the three layers of photovoltaic material.

What upheaval and override this two part system could have on the world! But will we have to wait until the petroleum reserves to run out? Or the petroleum-based politics change? Or for the silica invested firms to become as strong as the petrol invested firms of the world?  What will push this concept beyond its testing stages?  And what might hold it back?

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