Technology research is often about finding ways to combine two different functions into one tool or, as you might have heard it said before, kill two birds with one stone. In the Netherlands, a consortium of research facilities and energy companies is a little closer to doing just that. By combining solar energy generation with much-needed noise-reduction barriers along a busy Dutch highway, the team hopes to prove that they’ve developed an environmentally-friendly solution to two of modern life’s biggest challenges.
Michael Debije at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is the researcher who developed the original concept, which he expressed in a report published in the journal Nature in March 2015. The technology is known as Solar Noise Barriers (SONOB), a neat little acronym for a practical solution to modern urban problems.
The SONOB consortium consists of four separate companies working together to find the ultimate eco-friendly roadside companion: a structure that can eliminate excess noise pollution while simultaneously generating clean energy. The partners are TU/e, Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), Solar Energy Application Center (SEAC), Van Campen Industries and Space Netherlands.
In a concept similar the conventional solar power technology, “light is absorbed by a visually appealing transparent dyed plastic sheet and then led to solar cells hidden in the frame of the barrier,” according to SEAC’s website. Until recently, this technology existed in concept only, but a “living lab” test just began along the A2 highway near Den Bosch where two test noise barriers have been installed. The “living lab” test began June 18 and will continue for one year, exposing the test barriers to the same conditions the final product will have to endure. If it works, we could see panels like this dyed in any number of colors popping up along busy highways around the world.
Images via Solar Energy Application Center