Rajib Mallick

Emil Norby

Mark Watson


Rajib Mallick

“We have more than 3 million miles of highways exposed to sunlight, so if we can harness this energy, it’s free,” Rajib Mallick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, told CNN.

It seems like a lot of potential. Now the roads can be paved with gold. How can we get the modifications done? I’m ready! Here’s his original 2011 concept. (scroll down the page a little to find it on buildipedia.com)

Since asphalt heats up in the sun, it seems plausible and beneficial to extract that heat for our energy needs. Except, that in his research, Mallick found some complications.

“Embedded pipes might be fine for parking lots, but not for roads and highways,” he says.

He suggests that a geotextile would work better if constructed into the pavement.  A specially designed geotextile that contains a graphene layer can function as a solar collector as efficiently as pipes have.

AND At a cost of $12,500 for every 50 meters of pipe, plus $1,000 annual maintenance, it’s a little pricey, but Mallick thinks that the system could pay for itself in six years while also providing enough electricity to heat 55 homes for one month a year.

Geotextile? Cool! Here’s something about graphene:

His critics – what are they afraid of?

“Change,” he said. “It scares people, I think.”

And you guessed it, investors worry about return on investment and aren’t sure about how this would really play out and whether it would be successful especially system-wide.

Sources: Buildipedia, Boston Business Journal, WPI, Mother Nature Network, Worcester Magazine, thisbigcity, CNN, Green Car Reports

Emil Norby

“I guess here in Polk County our roads smell like Wisconsin.”

Cheese making in process (Public Domain Image)

Cheese making in process (Public Domain Image)

Emil “Moe” Norby, speaking in this video, is the Polk County highway employee who first pioneered the brine-recycling plan in 2008. Unlike other futuristic solution makers who comes up with great plans, ideas and green concepts to help builder a smarter planet, Norby got buy-in. In fact a lot of buy-in. It was an offer that Wisconsin couldn’t refuse. Here’s the winning formula! Dairies leave behind a salty brine from cheese making in Wisconsin and they spend thousands of dollars to dispose of it. Add to that extreme need for de-icing during heavy winters.

The year Emil “Moe” Norby introduced the idea, the county saved $30,000 in brine disposal costs and $40,000 on rock salt. When the mercury drops near zero, traditional chemicals lose their effectiveness but Emil Norby proved that his liquid cheese brine salt concoction did not freeze until there were two consecutive nights of temperatures of 21 degrees below zero or lower. Benefits of this mixture besides the cost savings include faster melting rates and increased stickiness of the salt to the road. Now the salt doesn’t bounce off.

The Conservation Law Foundation notes that  Americans throw away 40 percent of our food. Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in our landfills! Alternative de-icing therefore works to lower this waste, but still the potential environmental consequences of spreading cheese brine on our roads may need to be further researched on its environmental impact while it de-ices and in the runoff.

Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works started their pilot program to use cheese brine in the winter of 2013.

The type of cheese does matter. Jeffrey A. Tews, who managed the 2013 brine-spraying experiment on Milwaukee’s south side,

“You want to use provolone or mozzarella. Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it.”

Sources: DairyImpactWisconsin, The Atlantic Cities, KUTV, InventorSpot, Conservation Law Foundation, Construction Dive, New York Times, Discover Magazine, NPR

Mark Watson

A combined 40 million tons of road salt a year are used in the United States and Canada resulting in nearly $40-billion worth of damages to infrastructure each year. That’s the economic justification for alternatives. The heart and soul justification for alternatives to road salt involve a puppy and Mark Watson. I’m an animal lover, and seeing the amount of cruelty to animals in the news and noticing neglected animals pains me. So, I can relate to Mark Watson’s story completely. In 2004, Mark Watson watched his 8 year old Cocker Spaniel, Grover, lose his battle with cancer. Then, his neighbors 2-year old labrador retriever died. Then, another neighbor’s mixed breed dog died. Hear how he found out about the link between the dog deaths and road salts.

Completely disgusted and dissatisfied with how procedures to clear roads would include a chem trail that kills our companions, Mark Watson didn’t just shrug his shoulders. He decided that there needed to be an option for consumers that would not be so deadly to our pets or destructive to our homes. He co-founded Earth Innovations Inc.. The company’s focus is on finding effective nontoxic solutions to everyday problems. The solution is made out of a cost-effective volcanic mineral safe for pets, plants and property. It’s durable, effective and absorbs water. It now has retail relationships with over 5,000 partners across Canada.

While the negotiations were tense, Mark Watson approached the Dragon’s Den with a pitch to get his company off the ground. (Dragons’ Den is a reality show in Canada. Innovative products are presented as business opportunities to five of Canada’s wealthiest entrepreneurs known as ‘the dragons’.) All five dragons wanted a piece of the action when pitched however there were some tense terms to flesh out.

Hear him on Dragon’s Den:

Watch to see a success story,

So is anyone using it? For one thing, consumers are and that’s optimistic. But are the municipalities? It seems like there is some political support and some political resistance. Calgary Flames use it for ice melting. Ottawa said it would do a pilot project in 2011 and never followed through due to cost. The Chicago Park District has been using EcoTraction each winter since 2009 satisfactorily. There’s only room to grow.

Sources: Financial Post, EcoTraction, Yahoo Finance, Dragon’s Den, Environmental Management & Energy News, The Winter Times



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