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Introducing The World's First Solar-Panel-Covered Road

Introducing The World's First Solar-Panel-Covered Road

PARIS: French civil engineering firm Colas has launched the world's first "photovoltaic roads," capable of withstanding the weight of cars and bicycles and producing electricity by exposure to sunlight.

Known as "Wattway," the concept could revolutionize solar energy production. Colas says that covering just 2.5% of France's road and highway network would be enough to supply 10% of the country's energy needs, French business daily Les Echos reports.

The work is the result of five years of research with the French National Institute for Solar Energy and will be available on the market beginning in January.

Hervé Le Bouc, CEO of Colas, told theLes Echos that authorities will not need to replace already existing infrastructures, seeing as the procedure consists of a simple road surfacing. Panels composed of 15 centimeter-long photovoltaic cells are installed on roads or car parks and covered with a resin substrate that can withstand any type of circulation, even heavy trucks. They are also designed to be resistant to skidding.

The photovoltaic roads are designed to send the collected energy to the country's national electricity network ERDF or directly to homes. About 20 square meters of the equipment can provide sufficient energy for one household (not including heating); 15 square meters can supply the traffic lights of one intersection and one kilometer can provide light to a city of 5,000 residents. Wattway can also be used for public lighting, illuminated billposting or electric cars.

Colas first plans on equipping supermarket car parks or limited road sections with its panels,"to discover the product," Le Bouc says. "Within four years, once we reach our cruising speed, we'll be able to equip several kilometer-long sections."�

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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