Sunday, September 13, 2015

Solar roads

Artist's rendition of Solar Roadway from the website
In my last post (Electric highways) I focused on an article about a project in the U.K. to create roads that would charge electric vehicles. In the article, there is a reference to an idea that would include a "Solar Roadway."

From the article: "The system would use electric cables installed under roads to generate electromagnetic fields and sent power to a gadget under a car. While it could potentially run on renewable energy (and maybe even be combined with something like a Solar Roadway), the government is still working out the details."

Since I like my students to follow up references to related information in articles, I looked at the link to an article on the website fastcoexist titled, "These solar roads could power the entire country." 

This innovation would also power roads so that electric vehicles could be charged while driving on them, but would use solar energy gathered on "custom, glass-covered solar panels that are strong enough to drive on while generating enough power to light the road, melt ice and snow, and send extra energy to cities." 

The article is short (537 words), but has useful language material as well as interesting information about a innovative topic.

The article gives short, clear technical descriptions of how parts of the innovation work, and includes ways of explaining these things to a non-technical audience. I always have my students notice this feature so that they can include these ideas in their own presentations and writing.

Some examples that focus on audience:
  • There are nearly 18,000 square miles of roads in the U.S., an area that's bigger than the entire states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts combined.
  • Glass, it turns out, is stronger than you might think. "You first mention glass, people think of your kitchen window," Brusaw says. "But think of bulletproof glass or bomb resistant glass..."
  • The textured surface means it isn't slippery.
  • It also powers small LED lights inside that can light up dividing lines and spell out warning messages - if motion sensors detect a deer crossing the road, the lights can automatically tell drivers to slow down.
  • Since the whole road is wired, it's also easy to maintain: If one panel stops working, all of the other panels around it call a local repair shop with the exact location. "A guy can come out and repair it in five minutes," Brusaw says. "Compare that to pothole repair."
Since it highlights the advantages of this type of road, there are many features of contrast and comparison:
  • bigger than
  • as many as
  • tough enough to (twice)
  • is stronger than
  • safer than
  • strong enough to
  • more power than
And there are many uses of adverbs - including collocations with both adjectives and verbs. For example:
  • nearly 18,000 square miles
  • eventually (twice)
  • basically
  • easily withstand
  • fully loaded truck
  • supposedly safer than
  • automatically tells drivers
  • charge the cars directly
  • continuously report their location
  • an insanely big challenge
When I combine a focus on language features with an article on a topic that my students find interesting, they are more motivated to do the language work.

There's more information about this project on the Solar Roadways project website:

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