CNN reports that an electrical engineer named Scott Brusaw has come up with an idea to pave roads with “super-strong” glass embedded with heating elements. The idea is to have the roads serve as giant solar panels, powering the heating elements to melt ice and snow before it can stick. He even thinks that, one day, the Solar Highway could recharge electric cars and generate energy for other uses.
Meanwhile, another engineer, Rajib Mallick at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is working on heat-absorbing roads that might use pipes beneath the surface filled with a sort of anti-freeze that warms up in hot weather and is kept hot for when it’s needed to melt snow and ice in the winter — sort of the reverse of how they do hockey rinks.
The products of neither of these projects is imminent, of course. There’s a lot to work out, from cost (and who pays) to making glass with enough traction for driving. And we’ve seen cool ideas like these before that never seem to pan out. But I can remember the days when I lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sliding all over the road in snow and ice and thinking, geez, why can’t the roads have coils to melt this stuff the same way the rear window defroster works? Maybe they can after all. It can’t come soon enough.