Asphalt roads throughout the country are well known for soaking up the sun’s rays. Now, new piping technology from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts, is offering a way to trap heat and use it elsewhere, potentially transforming blacktopped streets into giant solar energy collectors.
It works by using the sun-warmed asphalt to heat water pumped through tubes embedded a few inches below the road surface. This can help to cool asphalt by utilizing some of the heat that would have remained in the material to heat the circulating water to produce electricity.
Researchers are testing different pipe materials and conductive aggregates to add to the asphalt to improve heat absorption. Costs relative to potential returns have yet to be quantified.