Move Over Silicon, Here Comes Asphalt  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

EcoGeek has a post on using the heat collection capacity of roads as a way of capturing solar energy- Hot Asphalt as Better Energy Collector than Solar Panels?.

Researchers in Massachusetts are working on a technique to turn heat gathered by asphalt into useable energy via water pipes. Their paper, released this week at the International Symposium on Asphalt Pavements and Environment in Zurich, posits that asphalt roads could be better than solar panels in gathering energy.

They say that all the parking lots and roads that sit there baking in the sun all day are basically already solar energy collectors, and that the sheer amount of useable asphalt offsets the lower efficiency factor. We just need a way to transfer that heat into energy on a large scale. The researchers point out how asphalt stays hot even after the sun goes down, which anyone in the Southwest can attest to, and so could continue to generate energy when solar panels can’t. A system of heat exchangers could become part of road construction projects and improvements, and the system could help out the issue of heat islands.

While my mind instantly goes to a slew of issues that could exist for places with cold winters, the Netherlands, an unarguably arguably cold place in winter, has already done something like this on a very small scale and it has been a success. The idea sounds viable, but I have a hard time thinking that it would surpass solar panels as energy collectors; however, I’d love to see it tried out in a place like Phoenix, where the heat gathered could be used to run homes’ AC units. How’s that for a loop?

2 comments

What about thermoelectric?

Sure - thermoelectric is an option - presumably that is what they are suggesting when talking about running air conditioners in Phoenix.

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