A husband and wife team of renewable energy entrepreneurs in the US are seeking funds for a project which seeks to convert roads into solar energy facilities.
Given the predominant role of the automobile in American transportation for both passenger and freight purposes, as well as the sheer length and breadth of the continental United States, roads and highways cover a huge amount of the country.
Scott and Julie Brusaw, the husband and wife team behind renewable energy start-up Solar Roadways, are looking to exploit the potential embodied by this vast road network by develop a technology to convert their surfaces into solar PV facilities which are capable of both bearing vehicles as well as generating power via exposure to sunlight.
The couple developed a road surface technology consisting of interlocking hexagonal devices. Each hexagonal segment is covered in a high strength textured tempered glass which is capable of bearing loads in excess of 113 tonnes.
The glass serves to protect a set of interconnected circuit boards which provide smart capabilities, as well as a set of rectangular solar panels, which the developers of the technology hope will eventually comprise the entire exposed surface of the device.
The Brusaws believe that the distribution of a huge and diffuse network of these solar PV panels in roadways throughout the United States could serve as a surefire remedy for some of the country's energy concerns, providing power to electrical vehicles as well as regular households.
In addition to solar power capabilities, the devices also possess features which fulfil other key functions, including LED lights which can serve to prove traffic signals, and a heating component which can keep the road surface free of ice or snow in frigid conditions.
The system would be powered via cables sequestered in grooves running adjacent the road, which will also be used to connect the hexagonal segments to a high-speed data network that reports faults or malfunctions in the road to engineers responsible for their maintenance. The grooves could also be used to house telephone lines or optical communication fibres, thus dispensing with the need for vulnerable overhead structures.
The Brusaws have spent the past decade working on the technology and succeeded in obtaining some support from the government in the form of a $100,000 contract from the US Department of Energy in 2009 for the construction of a prototype.
They now hope to take the project to the next level, and have turned to online funding platform Indiegogo to seek up to $1 million in capital for the purpose of hiring a team of researchers in the fields of materials, civil and structural engineering to work on further development of the device, transforming it from a prototype into a fully viable technology.