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The idea is quite simple: building roads
that are safer, more energy-efficient and
easier to maintain!
Admitedly, this proposal is kind of a non-
starter without the new high-tech material
I'm describing, but bear with me. We
invent a very versatile kind of pavement
that has the following
(1) It resembles ashphalt or cement in
durability, colour and texture. It's primary
use would be the construction of roads
and sidewalks, so the more similar it is to
current materials, the better.
(2) When fed a minimal electric current,
the surface warms up. Not enough to melt
car tires or shoe soles -- just about as
much as roads do now on a sunny day.
(3) The material has a glow-in-the-dark
property so that light energy is absorbed
into the material during the day, and
released at night.
(4) Finally, if possible, this material could
also capture sunlight and generate
electricity that could then be fed back into
the power grid.
So, when you combine any/all of these
properties, you get roads that are rugged,
can melt snow and ice in the winter, would
be more visible at night, and have the
potential for becoming an important,
inexpensive and environmentally-friendly
source of electricity!
Just (2) would be huge in cities like
Montreal, where snowplows and salt on
the roads cause slow-downs, damage
vehicles and the environment, inhibit
parking, and make winter driving a
And if (4) is possible, then you have a
whole network of roads and highways
feeding electricity back into the power
grid! Even if the solar cells only capture a
small amount of electricity, the sheer
surface area of roads and sidewalks in
place now would still make of them an
important energy source.
I guess my only concern would be impact
on the environment -- heating should
only be turned on when there's snow to
melt, so as to avoid disrupting weather
patterns. Also, the fluorescing action of
roads should only be activated when cars
are nearby, to reduce light pollution.
[methinksnot, Mar 13 2006]
||<Usseless engineering factoid> During the design stages of the Otira Viaduct in New Zealand's South Island, it was proposed that a thin steel mesh be embedded in the concrete close to the surface with the sole purpose of melting ice during the winter. It just so happens that a major power transmission line passes near-by.
This option was seriously considered given the steep gradient of the viaduct (almost 15% in some places) and the importance of the road (it is just about the most important link between the East and West coasts). In the end, the engineers chickened out. </uef>
Right-o, with that out of my system; instead of combining all the functions into the unobtanium pavement, how about you do it in sections: Strips of glow in the dark (orthogonal to the main axis of the footpath to indicate width in low light), heated wires running along the surface (hey! perfect recharging stations for the flocking road cones - we're on to a winner here). Wiki-engineering will still have to come up with the power-generating characteristics.
Over-engineered and unnecessary = heated, glowing, power-generating croissant
||[(2) When fed a minimal electric current] - um, I can't imagine it'd be that minimal. A "sunny day" means upwards of 1000w/m^2, but let's suppose a minimal 10W/m^2 for road heating purposes. Say a road 8m wide. for every 10km of road (~6mi) it'd take 800kw to heat. That's a lot folks, even assuming 10W/m^2 is enough, which it probably isn't. I'd suggest heating just the portion of the road cross-section that the tyres would contact, but this still adds up, and everyone would have to have the same wheelbase.
||The fluorescent idea is good however. Some current road paints include high reflectance beads, and I'm sure some glow-in-the-dark beads could be added. A vehicles headlights may well provide some level of "recharge" as it passes. Maybe road surfacing would be a good use for all that tritium they're removing from decomissioned thermonuclear weapons. Half-life of 12.5 years.
||Good one with the unobtanium bit.
||[-] for the unobtanium aspects of this
idea, but otherwise it sounds ok. You
might do well with some sort of clear
plastic or glass that is tough enough
and provides enough traction to
support car travel, yet lets enough light
down into the solar cells underneath
and allows for transmission of heat for
||You might do away with the solar cells
and just circulate water through the
space underneath to warm up in the
sun and power a solar thermal collector.
Then you could get some of those
phosphorescent bacteria to live in the
water and glow at night.
||I'm afraid that this special tough, slip-
proof, yet completely transparent
plastic is also another isotope of
||I read recently that they are testing conductive pavement to mitigate overpass freezeovers. They are mixing wire shavings into the pavement to achieve conductivity and using solar panels to charge batteries which power the system.
||Jesus, this idea is a newbie magnet. Of the 4 annotators and the creator, only one was here 5 days ago.
||I'm going to agree with most of what [rasberry] said. This is simply a wish list of what you want some fictional material to be capable of. Nor is there any explanation of how the fluorescent material would be activated by passing vehicles.
||Welcome to the halfbakery [tonyboy] (and everyone else). [-] for the idea. Sorry, but this seems to qualify as magic. A little over-ambitious for a first idea methinks.
||Come to New York, the streets are electric here! (ConEd keeps having to pay damages to people because it inadvertently wired manhole covers, and they or their dogs got fried.) (Good rule of thumb in New York: don't walk on manhole covers or metal plates. If they're not electrified, they'll probably blow up instead.)
||"We're gonna walk down to Electric Avenue..."