In a recent CNN story about research on harnessing the solar energy absorbed by pavement, Associate Professor Rajib Mallick was quoted as saying, “Think about it, we have more than three million miles of highways exposed to sunlight, so if we can harness this energy, it's free, and you don't need photovoltaic solar cells." The story prominently featured Mallick's own pioneering work in this area.
A faculty member in WPI’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Mallick has developed and tested a prototype system that would embed tubes filled with fluid in pavement to collect heat from solar radiation. In winter, the hot fluid could be collected and then used to keep snow and ice from accumulating on roadways. In summer, the heat could be turned into electricity to cool buildings. Removing heat from roadways in warm weather or warm climates could also help reduce rutting, a condition that shortens the life or roads.