Narrow bridges

How traffic lights, bridges and thorium can help

There has been a lot of recent news about investing in our infrastructure and expanding access to electric vehicle charging stations. As projects are awarded in accordance with President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act, we would like to take this opportunity to remind our leaders of some green infrastructure technologies we have previously covered on this site that promise to help further reduce the transport sector’s carbon footprint both immediately and as we approach an electrified future.

Leverage AI to reduce waiting time at red lights

Idling at a traffic light wastes energy, and when there’s no one crossing in front of you, it also gets on your nerves. Israel-based, Silicon Valley-based NoTraffic offers a solution to connect all major intersections in a metropolitan area to the cloud for about the cost of annual maintenance of today’s outdated loops and traffic detection cameras. today. Camera/radar sensors identify all vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists approaching an intersection, then share this information with neighboring intersections via a 4G/5G/LTE connection. All safety-critical decisions are localized at the intersection, but artificial intelligence helps interconnected intersections avoid “wasted” time on green or foot signals to maximize traffic flow. Since our May 2021 coverage, the NoTraffic platform has been deployed in multiple cities, including Phoenix, Tucson, and Chandler, Arizona, as well as Palo Alto, California. Equipping every intersection in Maricopa County (Phoenix) Arizona with the NoTraffic system was expected to save 7.8 centuries of travel time per year, as well as more than half a million tons of CO2 emitted to the idle, the equivalent of eliminating 115,647 combustion vehicles. Green infrastructure indeed.

Low CO2 concrete for roads and bridges

The energy needed to create concrete and steel generates amounts of CO2, so researchers at the Technical University of Munich are proposing structural beams made of granite or other gneiss stone sandwiched between sheets of fiber lamps made using their negative carbon process which feeds carbon from algae and cures them with parabolic solar reflectors. We covered this technology in October 2019, and late last year researchers identified Scenedesme and Phaeodactyl as useful algae for the production of carbon fiber strands. Wherever concrete is to be used, we must specify Calera’s Fortera cement, covered in December 2009. Its calcium carbonate is created by bubbling CO2 from power plant flue gases into seawater (sequestering about 1 .5 tonnes of CO2 for each tonne of green infrastructure cement). And if there isn’t enough for everyone, then we should look for concrete made from silica fume or CO2-reducing magnesium particles. And structural concrete should incorporate “self-healing” microcapsules as we described in the print version in January 2011. Filled with sodium fluorosilicate, they open up to fill cracks, extending the useful life of the structure.

Electric Avenues – Toll roads

A good way to eliminate queues for EV chargers is to grab an inductive charge straight from the road surface. In July 2017, we saw a Qualcomm Halo on-road charger delivering 10kW of power each to a pair of vans driving over it, with efficiency approaching 90%. WiTricity bought the technology from Qualcomm in 2019, although it appears its commercialization plans mainly involve stationary charging stations at intersections, bus stops and the like. Solar Roadways plans to produce a glass “roadway” capable of harvesting solar energy while supporting traffic. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this concept seems to have gone bankrupt.

Strengthen our electricity network

Two major barriers to public acceptance of widespread fleet electrification are our nation’s overreliance on fossil fuels and concerns about overloading our grid with too many electric cars plugged in. In December 2011, we discussed a potential infrastructure solution for both problems: the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor. Yes, it’s carbon-free nuclear fission, but don’t think “Fukushima”. This technology was originally envisioned in the 1950s by Oak Ridge National Laboratory to power a nuclear aircraft during the height of the Cold War. It is much less radioactive than uranium, it requires no enrichment, it operates subcritical without the risk of a chain reaction runaway, and the molten lithium-fluoride-thorium salt fuel can be almost completely consumed, not leaving only plutonium 238 – a weapons-grade non-isotope useful in space probe batteries and health research. Thorium is available in abundance, often considered waste from mining for other materials. For these reasons, a network of smaller thorium reactors could significantly strengthen our network, although at present the $/MWh price is still expected to be 27-84% higher than solar and wind. . China is ahead of us in the race to implement thorium power technology with a prototype 2 MW reactor soon to be commissioned near the Gobi Desert and plans to build a version commercial power of 373 MW by 2030. Again, perhaps following the promising news in early February 2022 on the nuclear fusion power front from the Joint European Torus, we should suspend further investment in fission…

The Ultimate Plan B (or C? D?)

Suppose governments collectively fail to bring CO2 emissions under control and the greenhouse effect shows no signs of reversing? We covered a potential technology infrastructure plan for this in September 2012 that would certainly require a concerted global effort. Based on observations of the earth cooling after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, British engineers began searching for a different, non-reactive, benign, ubiquitous and cheap particle that might be able to make the same thing. The University of Bristol team developed the concept of Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE), using titanium dioxide. It’s a kind of glitter that we use in metallic paints, inks, sunscreens, and even food. If properly coated with an organic, UV-resistant and water-repellent coating, a thin layer of TiO2 dust can chill us. They even came up with a delivery method: five ultra-high altitude balloons tethered to the equator would each pump TiO2 in a nitrogen/hydrogen slurry at 87,000 psi (!) through an ultra-high aramid fiber pipe. resistant surmounted by a hypersonic nozzle. Dispersing 1.65 tonnes of TiO2 per year could cool us down at a cost of just $5.9 billion per year.

You see, as we try to demonstrate in our coverage of new and emerging technologies, engineers and scientists can find a solution to almost anything.