Heat Islands May Not Be So Bad After All

Emily Badger reports on pioneering research that is looking into ways to utilize the heat trapping properties of asphalt, rather than fighting it.

The heat attracting properties of asphalt are common knowledge to anyone who's attempted to dash from the beach to their car on a hot summer day with their flip-flops in hand, and not on their feet. And, of course, the heat trapping effects of urban agglomerations of asphalt covered surfaces, known as the urban heat island effect, are well know to many planners.

As Badger notes, while a lot of work has gone into figuring out how to combat the effect, Rajib Mallick, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and other researchers are working on ways to harness the heat contained in asphalt and put it to productive uses.

"Asphalt, for instance, could heat water coursing through a series of pipes embedded in the road. And that process would both cool street surfaces and send their heat somewhere useful...This heat could also be converted into different forms of energy. Other liquids that turn into vapor could be used to drive turbines generating electricity."

"Mallick and his colleagues have not only done the theoretical work to envision these possibilities, they've begun testing them as well with support from both the state of Massachusetts and the National Science Foundation," writes Badger.

What about just paving with something less heat intensive than asphalt?

"Economics drives everything," Mallick says. "And if you think about it, asphalt is very cheap. You can't find a cheaper material to build pavement. Asphalt is a byproduct of petroleum, so as long as there will be petroleum, there will be asphalt."

Full Story: Instead of Lamenting the Urban Heat Island Effect, Why Don’t We Harness It?

Comments

building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.
$25
Red necktie with map of Boston

For dads and grads: tie one on to celebrate your city!

Choose from over 20 styles imprinted with detailed city or transit maps.
$44.95
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95

City Coasters

Hand-drawn engraved maps of your favorite neighborhoods are divided up across 4 coasters making each one unique.
$36.00