Storing summer sun could prevent winter freeze on UK roads

An innovative experiment to save the summer heat on roads and use it to prevent them freezing up in winter has begun near the Toddington services on the M1.

The experiment will demonstrate how roads can be used as energy collectors.

A series of plastic pipes containing water has been laid at a shallow depth beneath the surface of the road. In summer the sun’s heat absorbed by the road surface will be collected by the pipes and retained in insulated heat stores in the ground.

It will then remain stored ready for recovery in winter to prevent ice forming on the road surface. Sensors will detect when the road surface drops and pump the warm-water back into position.

The project was awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory by the Highways Agency. It is run in collaboration with heat transfer specialists icax Ltd and hopes to evaluate the economic viability of the technique and provide the Highways Agency with an assessment of whether wider implementation would be cost effective.

The trial of the system will last two years.

By David Hopkins

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