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How our future sun-drinking glass roads will power the country

Posting in Energy

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Some of us may be squeezing solar panels on roofs to take advantage of government subsidies and make our energy use a little cleaner, but could road surfaces hold the true key to powering our cities without fossil fuels?

Billions of parking spaces and thousands of square miles of land are taken up by concrete, used to park our cars and serve as roads for drivers. In the U.S., this land soaks up huge amounts of sunlight every day -- and why not take advantage of this fact?

A new crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo describes the Solar Roadways project, founded by entrepreneurs Scott and Julie Brusaw, who hope to transform our concrete pathways in to useful, solar powerhouses. The project uses custom, hexagon-shaped glass blocks which are strong enough to protect solar panels beneath.

Brusaw told the publication:

"You first mention glass, people think of your kitchen window. But think of bulletproof glass or bomb resistant glass. You can make it any way you want. Basically bulletproof glass is several sheets of tempered glass laminated together. That's what we have, only our glass is a half inch thick, and tempered, and laminated."

According to the founders, the glass is strong enough for not only cars, but also trucks and vast amounts of pressure. The textured surface could stop cars from slipping in icy conditions, and small LED lights -- powered by the captured sun -- can act as lane dividers and to warn drivers of hazards ahead.

Not only can this surface act as a power generator for our homes, but it could also serve as a catalyst for the adoption of electric vehicles. The designers say that the panels may eventually be used to power charging stations for EVs, and perhaps even charge cars directly as they are driven.

Solar Roadways hopes to raise $1 million via Indiegogo to hire additional engineers, refine the surface product and test it on roads in the United States. At the time of writing, the project has raised $62,557 with 20 days to go.

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— By on May 12, 2014, 8:39 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure