Innovative technology: covering sleepers with recycled rubber tires and solar panels

It will be about an employee of the technical department of the Italian railway Giovanni de Lizzi (Palermo). Back in 2005, an interesting idea arose in his head.

In the first half of the twentieth century, a large-scale work began on replacing the wooden sleepers that were out of use with new ones made of concrete. It was this question that piqued Giovanni’s interest, and he thought it would be effective to coat the new concrete sleepers with recycled car tires, which are a mixture of rubber and plastic. This project led to the creation of a startup called Green Rails or Greenrail, supported by a special unit of the Polytechnic University of Milan.

Project idea

The Italian association EcoPneus collects recyclable materials, and in this case, recycled plastic and rubber from car tires. It is this material that can become the material for the implementation of the conceived project. Thanks to the work done, the old railway can be turned into a “living”, constantly interacting railway network that could produce energy, monitor emerging problems with trains, collect and send certain data.

The arrangement of a special control unit is envisaged, which will be able to unite the railway system into an information network that independently collects data on the state of the system, the level of safety and the possibility of certain breakdowns. The information will be automatically sent to special control centers to correct traffic.

Additionally, recyclable materials act as a coating that can reduce vibration load on the road, reduce the process of track ballast wear and displacement of the rails, which in turn can help increase the carrying capacity of the transport network by 40%.

With such an effective use, the developers of the idea calculated that the cost of maintaining the railway would significantly decrease, and the service life of all components would increase by at least 10 years.

Moreover, the new sleepers will make it possible to use a huge amount of unusable materials, which greatly pollute the environment during their processing.


To date, all necessary studies and operational testing have been carried out. The company is preparing to launch the first batch of products and is going to enter the intercontinental market. In essence, these will be “insisted” sleepers, which will depend on the technical requirements of the regional operators and the characteristics of one or another part of the railway network.

Last year for the Greenrail project was marked by the signing of a licensing agreement with SafePower1. Thus, in the near future, similar coatings on regional railways will soon appear in several US states.

Now the head of the company, Giovanni de Lizzi, is raising funds for the construction of a large-scale plant in Italy, which is scheduled to begin operations in 2019. Also, a project was launched to finance the construction of a manufacturing facility in America.

A dialogue is underway with India, Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan, some countries of South America and Africa.

Solar energy and unique sleepers – two in one.

Additionally, a version of converting railways into a solar power plant is being discussed in the development of a new technology. This can be achieved by introducing photovoltaic cells with a power range from 35 to 45 megawatts per year into the sleepers’ coating. Such innovations will allow solar panels to interact with the train network, traffic lights, track switches, stations, as well as generate electricity and send it to the grid.