Highway barriers could deliver more than just noise protection if a test currently underway in the Netherlands proves successful. The colorful roadside barriers incorporate luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) which transfer light to conventional solar panels at the side in order to generate energy.

The technology developed by Michael Debije at the Eindhoven University of Technology is being tested along the A2 highway in the Netherlands. Over the course of a year, the barriers will be tested for their effectiveness in power-generation as well as vandal-resistance and maintenance requirements.

"Thanks to their many colors the LSC are visually very attractive, which makes them ideal for use in many different situations in the built environment," explains Debije. "Further benefits are that the principle used is low cost, they can be produced in any desired, regular color, is robust, and the LSCs will even work when the sky is cloudy. That means it offers tremendous potential."

Each of the semi-transparent acoustic screens is 5 meters (16.4 ft) wide and 4.5 meters (14.7 ft) high, and while two barriers of this size might not generate that much energy, the researchers say that a 1 kilometer strip of these barriers could generate enough power for 50 homes.