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Intermat | Three stand-out innovations

Solaroad elementengelegd 3to2

The giant Intermat construction trade show was held in Paris this week. Here are three innovations which caught the eye of New Civil Engineer.

SolaRoad

The concept is simple: embed solar panels into a road to power streetlights, traffic lights and electric cars.

The solar panels are embedded in concrete with a rough glass surface to prevent users slipping.

A pilot project to test the technology was set up in 2014 in the Netherlands. The 70m long cycle path was made up of 2.5m by 3.5m panels which produced around 70kWh/m2 per year of power. This is claimed to equate to the amount of power needed for two to three homes annually.

Solar road

Solar road 2

The solar cycle lane will, if successful, be used for street lighting and other local power needs.

Success of the trial has now led the SolaRoads company to set up a new trial under heavy traffic loading. The new trial is being carried out in Haarlemmermeer in Holland and will examine the impact of solar pavement technology for daily road management and maintenance. It will also look at how to maximise its energy consumption.

SolaRoad vice governor of mobility Elisabeth Post said: “It is time for the next step. Valuable lessons were learnt from the pilot in Krommenie. We know the SolaRoad pavement can perform well on a bicycle path, now we will test the pavement under heavy traffic loading. If the pilot is successful, the potential for large scale application of solar pavements worldwide is enormous.’

The concept has been developed by research organisation TNO, the Province of Noord-Holland, contractor Ooms Civiel, and engineer Imtech Traffic & Infra.

Energy from roads

Contractor Ooms is also looking at heating buildings using water heated by roads. The process involves installing networks of water pipes within the asphalt road surface, so that when it heats up, it heats the water. This can then be pumped around neighbouring buildings.

The technology is already being rolled out in Holland with Ooms saying a further benefit was the extension of the service life of the road surface.

Competition in the 3D concrete printing market

Competition in the 3D concrete printing market is hotting up as concrete specialist Sika enters the race. The company claims its printer produces the most regular of the 3D printed surfaces and has one of the fastest outputs.

A company spokesperson said that the system it developed could lay the layers at 1m/s.

The concrete can develop strengths of 100MPa at 28 days, but the spokesperson said the challenge was not the final strength, but its early age strength. He also said ways to reinforce structures still had to be worked out.

“When you lay a strip down, it needs to be supported by the one below. But Sika is a chemical company so we have developed a system that we can change the settings to adjust the strength.

“It is a big challenge for 3D printed structures about how to reinforce the buildings. We can have fibres, but it may not be sufficient for the real construction.”

He also went on to raise the issue of which building code could be used when designing structures for use with the new technology.

Other companies have also entered the market, which is tipped to revolutionise the construction industry. Skanska is currently trialling its own version of the technology in the UK and earlier this month Arup unveiled its first 3D printed house.

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