Used to dampen the loud sounds of highway traffic for neighborhoods and businesses located alongside busy roads, noise barriers can improve the quality of life for those around the highways, but they also take up space and can be a bit of an eyesore.
Engineers at the Eindhoven University of Technology developed luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) technology that makes the barriers an attractive part of the landscape as well as a source of clean energy. LSCs are colored panels that receive light and direct it to the edges of the panels where there are traditional solar cells that harness the solar energy. A year-long test project on both sections of noise barriers, each 5 meters wide and 4.5 meters high, will evaluate how much electricity the LSC panels can generate under various conditions as well as how well they stand up to any vandalism, as often happens with any outdoor infrastructure.
The barriers were partially covered in the LSCs and partially covered in semi-transparent panels holding conventional solar cells, so that the performances of the two technologies can be compared. 1 kilometer of the solar noise barriers could generate enough electricity to power 50 homes.