Solar Roadways Light the Way for the Future of Infrastructure
Here's a glimpse into the future: high maintenance, expensive concrete roads and parking lots turned into glossy solar surfaces, fueling enough energy from the sun to power nearby communities and the electric vehicles above them.
According to inventors/creators of Solar Roadways, Scott and Julie Brusaw, sections of the road could be made out of solar cells to collect energy, which would more than pay for the cost of the panels. And what if LEDs were added beneath road lines for safer night time driving, and heating elements were added to prevent snow/ice accumulation in northern climates? Those are questions the Solar Roadways project sought to answer under a 2009 Federal Highway Administration contract to build the first ever prototype.
"We're building solar panels that you can drive on," Brusaw told the Scientific American. "The fact that it's generating power means it pays for itself over time, as opposed to asphalt."
Thus far, the results have proved favorable and the company was awarded a follow-up 2-year Phase II $750,000 SBIR contract in 2011 to build a prototype parking lot in Idaho—an effort expected to be showcased this Spring.
"The Federal Highway Administration told us they're not going to let us go out on the highway to start this,” Brusaw told CNN. "They told us to go into the parking lot first, prove your technology, perfect it and learn your lessons there -- which makes sense."
Is it safe?
Actually, solar roads may even be safer than concrete. The hardness of glass on the solar panels falls somewhere in between the strength of steel and stainless steel, and does not accumulate a slick sheen of oil on its surface like cement. In addition to its strength, the glass will also be textured in a way that encourages tires to grip the surface and water to run off. It's also easier and faster to replace.
Each road panel is made of three basic layers. The road surface layer is translucent and rough enough to provide great traction, capable of handling today's heaviest loads under the absolute worst conditions. An electronics layer would control the heating element, lighting, communications and monitoring to create an intelligent highway system. The base plate layer would take the sun collected from the electronics layer and distribute it to homes and businesses connected to the roadway.
One of the great challenges of the Brusaws' big idea will be creating a type of glass that is also self-cleaning in order to cope with the grit and grime of heavy use over time. Surely, developing a revolutionary product like that will come at a price as well.
"The cost to develop a glass that will hold up in the fast lane of a highway? Fifteen [million] to 25 million dollars over three to five years," Brusaw added. "The cost in mass production? About $1 per square foot."
Furthermore, the solar roadway system would require sophisticated energy-storage capability. But the yet-to-be-invented glass does not intimidate the couple, who are determined to create a cross-country highway system that can double as an electricity generator and power grid—a model they believe could very well eliminate the need for fossil fuels in energy generation across the country.
"Based on my calculations, at 15 percent efficiency [from the photovoltaics] we produce more than three times the electricity we have ever produced," Brusaw told the Scientific American, adding "we think we can make enough to meet the nation's energy needs.”
Even when the roads are smothered in traffic, Brusaw estimates that solar collection would be at 50 percent.
A remarkable idea come to life, the Solar Roadway could very well become one of the greatest infrastructure innovations of the 21st century. It's time to upgrade.
Images sourced via Solar Roadways
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.