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.
"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.
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