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Driving On Glass: Could Solar Roadways One Day Save The Planet From Climate Change? This Guy Thinks
November 9, 2012
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If you're a smart driver, you no doubt avoid driving on glass. But if Scott Brusaw has his way, every road will eventually be covered in it.

Brusaw is an electrical engineer from Idaho. And he's working on a plan to make solar powered roads, using super-strong glass panels.

Brusaw says his goal is to make roads strong enough to drive on and "smart" enough to be a source of sustainable energy.

In Canada, we have nearly 900,000 kilometres of paved roads. The U.S. has about 6.4 million kilometres.

That's a whole lot of asphalt and concrete absorbing a whole lot of heat from the sun. And as Brusaw sees it - a whole lot of wasted energy.

His company - 'Solar Roadways', has already built a prototype 12x12 glass panel complete with solar cells.

driving-on-glass-could-solar-roadways-one-day-save-the-planet-from-climate-change-this-guy-thinks-so-feature2.jpg The idea is to have the solar cells absorb the sun's heat and convert it into electricity.

Brusaw believes solar roads could generate three times more electricity than the United States annual output. "It's almost enough to power the entire world," he says.

driving-on-glass-could-solar-roadways-one-day-save-the-planet-from-climate-change-this-guy-thinks-so-feature1.jpg That's big. Of course, at this point, it's just an idea. Who knows if it will ever actually happen.

But if it does, Brusaw believes we wouldn't need fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) or nuclear powered electricity.

There are some obvious questions.

What about traction?

Brusaw says glass, especially when it's fused together in layers, is stronger than you might think. And he says he's teamed up with top researchers at the University of Dayton and Penn State who can develop super-strong glass to give vehicles the traction they need.

How much would all this cost?

Brusaw figures each mile would cost $4.4 million. But he says it would eventually pay for itself, with all the energy it would produce.

What if the roads are jammed with traffic? Will they still absorb enough heat to produce energy?

Yes, Brusaw says. Even if traffic is bumper-to-bumper, he says the roads could still absorb 50 per cent of the sun's energy.

Check out his latest video.

Brusaw says solar roads could provide "a whole slew of new features."

One such feature: a heating system.

Brusaw says the panels would produce enough electricity to keep highways heated all winter long. Snow would melt right away.

Picture the rear window of a car. Brusaw says solar roads would have a similar heating element embedded in the glass, so we'd never have to plow or shovel again.

Another feature: LED lights.

Brusaw's design includes LED bulbs under the glass. The idea is to light the road at night and provide messages and warning signs to drivers.

The bulbs can be lit to spell virtually anything, he says. And sensor devices could alert drivers to road conditions.

Plus, if electric cars one day become popular, Brusaw says the electricity generated by the roads could be used to recharge electric vehicles.

Here's a video of Brusaw building the prototype. You can see it around the 2:00 mark.

Brusaw is currently working on a small prototype for a parking lot in Sagle, Idaho.

The U.S. government has given him $750,000 for the project.

But Brusaw still has to find the right type of glass and revise some specs.

Over time, he hopes to develop his solar glass panels for driveways, bike paths, patios, sidewalks, and playgrounds. Then, eventually integrate them onto public roads.

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