Eco Factor: Generating renewable energy from heated pavement.
While some researchers are working on technology to install solar panels on roads to provide renewable energy, researchers at Novotech and two Massachusetts universities are working on a system that could channel heat from asphalt and other paving materials into usable power.
Unlike solar panels that work only during daytime, asphalt being an insulator has the potential to provide energy even after sunset. The system will be based either on the use of copped pipes wrapped in graphite or other strong conductors about an inch below the surface of the pavement, or the use of heat sinks that are used in some residential floorboard heating systems.
The technology is currently being tested on a small scale and the slabs are being exposed to wind, rain and other weather conditions to determine their effect on power production. The researchers are envisioning the use of these thermocouples in parking lots near commercial buildings, where they can generate enough energy to power nearby buildings.