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Innovative Pavement Design: Are Solar Roads Feasible?


Sustainability is critical in current engineering designs, particularly in the field of pavement engineering, and is based on having only limited resources while trying to maximize designs for performance. To this end, developing infrastructure that can meet multiple needs is highly beneficial to society’s will to live at our current standard of living. One such project is the proposal to build roads that have been integrated with photovoltaic cells in order to provide a high performance driving surface while generating renewable electricity. This electricity could then be used by local infrastructure, adjacent buildings, or sold to the electrical grid. In order to do this there are many challenges that need to be overcome, as these roads cannot be made from traditional road surface materials, and a thorough analysis of many design aspects needs to be considered. This paper looks to determine, based on existing pavement materials research, how such a road panel can be constructed and manufactured. Specific elements investigated include the design of each layer of the solar road panel, how the panel can be integrated with photovoltaic electronics, how such a design can be weatherproofed, and how to optimize between solar capture area and structural integrity. The analysis will be influenced by designing around available materials and engineering calculations of the panel under loading. The end result of this paper is a detailed solar road panel design that will be built and evaluated through physical and finite element testing in future work.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Andrew Northmore
Dr. Susan Tighe
Geometric design