As the road is being laid the fumes from the chemical materials and the concussive force of the construction equipment are devastating to local wildlife (Forman & Alexander, 1998). The result, is displaced organisms which ultimately put increased pressure for food, land, and water on other ecosystems. The extent of these ripple effects are still yet to be fully known.
In instances where above or below ground water supplies must be altered in order to make way for a new road system the effects are if anything more dire. When laying the bed of a road, it is nearly impossible to prevent a percentage of the chemicals used in the road surface itself from leeching into the soil (Forman & Deblinger, 2000). When in the presence of water those toxins are carried the course of the water supply affecting all of the vegetation and wildlife which it comes into contact with. Further, small otherwise innocuous streams may become channelized as a result of road works. To channelize a stream indicates that its flow is concentrated and steered in more convenient directions (Switalski, et al. 2004). However the increased pressure of a higher volume of water results in increased erosion and may result in negative consequences for the local fish and amphibious population. The increased water flow may also concentrate any toxins or waste leaching into the water supply so that rather than relatively harmless levels of toxins may become more dire in terms of their impact on vegetation, wildlife, and even local human populations (Kosson, et al. 2002).
The materials proposed for this new system of road work and road surfacing are highly unorthodox. The use of reclaimed rubber, vegetation, and solar / pressure sensitive tiles is a combination which has not before been considered in road surfacing due to the perception that it would ultimately result in an unstable driving surface endangering the lives of motorists. It is my contention thought, that the tiles which would comprise the primary road surface and which would be anchored in place by a series of heavy duty conduits would provide at least as stable a driving surface as the one provided by asphalt. However, the fact that each tile would be independent allows for more dynamic movement and simpler repairs than are possible with a substance like asphalt. Potholes, cracked roads, unexpected or observed sinkholes would be actually impossible with this new proposed surface. Reclaimed rubber is effectively free of all of the most prominent drawbacks associated with asphalt and is unused because it is untested.
The most effective proof of concept for this project would be an actual test of the proposed alternate road surface and energy collection system in laboratory simulated real world settings. As discussed above, threats to efficacy of road surface include; changes in external and internal temperature, moisture proliferation, stress, friction, compression, tension, torsion, and cutting. However, as the specific technologies necessary to implement the proposed road surface are still in development the most accurate way of conducting a proof of concept in the immediate future will be to develop a simulation utilizing data collected from real materials in the context of the full battery of testing which any proposed road surface would undergo prior to approval and implementation. The use of simulation data will ultimately not only be cost effective but also allow for the simultaneous running of multiple variations on the road surface thus proving time effective as well.
Testing physical samples in a laboratory at this point in the development process would be extremely costly and require not only a great deal of physical space but also a significant number of staff on hand 24/7 to monitor the progress of the experiment. Computer modeling allows not only for the simultaneous running of multiple conditions but the repetition of tests hundreds or even thousands of times assessing any and all possible outcomes of all possible scenarios. Researchers will be able to literally test the best and worst case scenarios in all possible conditions as well as assess the effects of normal wear and tear based on up-to-date traffic patter information from any place in the world.
The design of the study will be divided into two discrete phases which may require the inclusion of researchers with differing fields of expertise. This project will ultimately be an interdisciplinary study between environmental science, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and biology. The initial and perhaps most significant phase of testing will be the selection of raw materials, as well as the machining and construction processes for the individual components. Though rubber is the most heavily used proposed material the various requirements of the substance all of which must be controlled for in the reclamation of the pellets must be assessed in terms of realistic data based on the normal wear and tear of road surfaces. Data regarding the tension, torsion, pressure, heat, tearing, freezing, and innumerable other factors all of which are accessible data points must be compared to different chemical compositions of rubber in order to find which type is the most compatible with the specific requirements of a road bed.
The tiles will likely be made of some form of Piezoelectric substance embedded with solar collection panels. The material will have to be both abrasive and durable in order to successfully serve the purposes of road surfacing however it will also have to be sensitive enough to collect solar radiation and accurately measure the force applied by car tires. Though this challenge seems insurmountable as with the specific data points regarding the forces applied to a road bed the same data is available for road surfaces. It is simply a matter of comparing the data points which are available from the manufacturers of potential tile substances. One of the most important requirements of the tiles though is that they be extremely energy efficient. The purpose of this new proposed road bed and surface is to decrease the carbon footprint as well as removing as much of the burden from the environment immediately surrounding and tangentially connected to the road surface as possible. The specific electrical and mechanical components will need to be made wholly water proof in order for them to be able to withstand natural weather cycles. They will also need to be resistant to extremely high temperatures in the event of car fires which burn with enough heat to actually melt the surface of existing road structures. One potential upside to the use of heat and pressure sensitive tiles is that while car fires are devastating, the heat generated by one rather than being expended fruitlessly may be able to contribute effectively to the generation of electrical energy for the purposes of powering vehicles or contributing to national and local grids.
Perhaps though, the most difficult part of the initial testing phase will be the selection of an effective organic component to the road surface. Though the substances such as mosses, lichen, and grasses which would initially come to mind are extremely resilient, they have are easily uprooted and destroyed by tire spin which for the purposes of a road surface would render it ineffective. The carbon scrubbing power of algae and associated vegetation may be effective for these purposes but as always the issue will be finding a substance which is efficient, resilient, and extremely durable. While the idea of actually having a "living" component to the road system may seem entirely contraindicated, I contend that the integration of organic and inorganic substances for the purposes of energy efficiency has proven effective in fields such as architecture and medicine and is at least worth addressing in this context. In the event though that no organic material is able to be found, then it would be worth investigating the possibility of developing an artificial carbon scrubbing matrix which mimics the desirable properties of organic substances while having the strength and longevity of an inorganic substance.
The second phase of testing is if anything the easiest phase. Once all of the materials have been selected and real statistical models of their durability on a number of preselected categories has been established all that remains is running that data through weather, environmental, and road stress models from any and all countries in the world. The data collected will be applicable to any area whose data was used in the actual simulation and the results will be an accurate representation of the concept's real world applicability and success.
The substances and designs proposed in this project are radical, the actual nature of the project is also not directly related to global change science. However, the long-term results of a successful proof of concept of the above design would have highly significant and readily apparent effects on global change…