The automotive industry is shifting to being powered by renewable energy sources, which we wrote about in a previous blog post, but this technology might also be changing the current roadway infrastructure. Thermoelectric technology has made it possible to consider the modification of existing roadways and turning them into energy-producing roadways. With the enormous surface area of existing roads, there is promising potential to produce a massive amount of energy with the ability to power surrounding areas.
The thermoelectric energy production from roadways would operate in the same manner as the space industry. This energy is generated from temperature differences between two varying materials joining surfaces with two distinct temperatures. The electrons in each material push away from the warmer side, known as the Seebeck effect. Due to the use of different materials, the electrons between them vary. This imbalance of electrons, when reached to the colder side, generates a voltage that can be used to produce energy.
The surface of roads can peak temperatures of 122-140 F, and the surface beneath roads remains consistently between 50-60 F. This contrast between temperatures has the potential to create power through the use of thermoelectric generators.
The benefits of thermoelectric technology include the durability of this technology, the robust lifespan, and the efficiency of the energy produced. The resurfaced roads would still provide traction as asphalt will continue to be used, and the normal structural support of streets will be maintained by the compressed oxide layers.
In order for thermoelectric energy production to be possible, roadways would need to be restructured with an oxide base placed underneath the initial layer of the road. Additional hurdles to overcome include car exhaust deteriorating streets and the reduced amount of asphalt on roads may impact vehicle behavior.
While this restructured system would call for the complete redesign of streets, the advantages outweigh the inconvenience of construction.
Roadways currently expand for 31,000 square miles. The use of thermoelectric technology throughout this vast area would generate 240 Gigawatts of renewable energy. Roadways structure would not change, but they would now have the benefit of creating energy.
Do you have a thermoelectric challenge or question? Please contact our experts via the link below!