Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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electric pavement

Roads that manage themselves!
  (+4, -5)
(+4, -5)
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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 properties:

(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 general nuisance.

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.

tonyboy, Mar 13 2006

Otira Viaduct http://en.structura...dex.cfm?ID=s0004483
[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
methinksnot, Mar 13 2006

       [(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.
Custardguts, Mar 13 2006

       [-] 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 melting snow.   

       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 unobtanium.
discontinuuity, Mar 13 2006

       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.
kroeran, Mar 14 2006

       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.
hidden truths, Mar 14 2006

       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.)
DrCurry, Mar 14 2006

       "We're gonna walk down to Electric Avenue..."
normzone, Mar 14 2006


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