Articles

Bright Ideas: Color-Changing Roof Tiles and Solar-Panel Highways

Tiles use a common polymer that reacts to temperature.

by / October 9, 2009
Botswana sunset. Jean-Jacques Milan Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Black roofs absorb solar radiation, increasing summer cooling costs and power usage. White roofs would reflect more solar energy, lower summer cooling costs and perhaps reduce global warming if broadly adopted. But in the winter, solar energy -- absorbed by a black roof -- could augment winter heating and lower costs, especially in colder climates. A team of MIT students has come up with a new idea in roofing, called Thermeleon -- after the color-changing chameleon -- that turns white when hot, and black when cold. The tiles use a common polymer that reacts to temperature.

Another solar idea, according to a recent article in Scientific American, is to transform America's black-asphalt highways into solar panels. Solar Roadways received a small grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to research materials. Needless to say, the engineering challenges are significant.

Americans strongly support solar energy development and use, according to a survey by the SCHOTT Solar Barometer. The survey indicated 89 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats and 93 percent of Independents agreed that it is important for the U.S. to develop and use solar power.

For more information on solar and other types of renewable energy, visit the Department of Energy's new Energy Explained Site.

Photo: Jean-Jacques MilanĀ  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Wayne Hanson Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government