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Solar-Powered Noise Barriers Quiet Traffic While Generating Electricity

From the country that brought you the solar road comes solar noise barriers. Highway noise barriers are usually not very aesthetically pleasing and only serve one purpose—to quiet traffic for the surrounding community. But a researcher in the Netherlands, Michael Debije at the Eindhoven University of Technology, is trying to change all that.

Since April, Debije has launched two pilot projects along the A2 highway in the Netherlands to test a new kind of solar panel he has developed. Using an innovative technology known as luminescent solar concentrators (LSC), the translucent sheets "bounce light internally to the edges of the panels, where it is beamed onto regular solar panels in concentrated form," says Fast Coexist. The year-long pilot project will help determine how well the barriers hold up in terms of power generation capabilities and with vandal-resistance and maintenance requirements.

Because the barriers are so aesthetically pleasing and translucent, they could be used in urban areas to reduce noise pollution. Photo credit: Eindhoven University of Technology

The panels are ideal for the gray skies of Northern Europe because they work even on cloudy days. A single half-mile stretch can provide enough electricity to power 50 homes.

"The LSC panels can be made in different colors, so the result is something like an oversized stained-glass window," says Fast Coexist. "Because light can shine through them, they could be used in urban areas, shielding noise without making either pedestrians or motorists feel cut off."

Debije says thanks to recent breakthroughs with LSC panels, they are now a commercially viable product. Photo credit: Eindhoven University of Technology

Debije and his team published a paper in Nature this spring that shows how they have overcome previous problems with LSC panels, and the team now claims they are commercially viable, according to Tech Times. "Further benefits are that the principle used is low cost, they can be produced in any desired, regular color, is robust, and the LSCs will even work when the sky is cloudy," Debije told Tech Times. "That means it offers tremendous potential."

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