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Paint Lights ‘Route 66 of the Future’

Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Tomorrow’s highway has arrived on a short stretch of a Dutch roadway where glowing green road markings have replaced street lights.

Three bright green lines made from paint containing a photo-luminescent powder are lighting up a 0.3-mile (500-meter) section of the N329 highway in Oss, the Netherlands, in a pilot project called the Smart Highway.

"[I]t's almost radioactive," Dan Roosegaarde, the project's designer and creative director at Studio Roosegaarde, told Wired.co.uk.

Smart Highway
Twitter / HeijmansNL

The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, visited the glowing test area and called the project a "shining example of innovative infrastructure."

The Smart Highway, nicknamed "Route 66 of the Future," was developed in conjunction with Heijmans, a civil engineering and infrastructure company.

Smart, Sustainable, Safe

The luminescent road markings went into effect April 11 and, if the test area is successful, an official launch is due later this month, BBC.com reported.

"The government is shutting down streetlights at night to save money. Energy is becoming much more important than we could have imagined 50 years ago," Roosegarde said, according to UPI.com.

"This road is about safety and envisaging a more self-sustainable and more interactive world," Roosegaarde said.

"The themes sustainability, safety and perception are key to the concept and are manifested in the form of the newest technologies in the area of energy and light," Heijmans says of the project.

The Smart Highway was named Best Future Concept by the Dutch Design Awards in 2012, and Roosegaarde initially planned to make the concept a reality in 2013.

However, the project was slightly stalled by government hurdles, according to media reports.

Heijmans hopes to use the paint on more roads but has not secured any contracts so far, Nos.nl reported.

Potential Flaws

The glowing strips can last for up to eight hours after being charged by the sun all day, but it remains to be seen how well the paint holds up to traffic and weather elements.

Heijmans
Facebook / HeijmansNL

Heijmans wants to extend the Smart Highway to other areas, but there are no contracts yet.

Moreover, eight hours may not be enough when the country faces 13 hours of daily darkness in the winter, Discover Magazine noted.

Media reports have also pointed out an unintended potential safety flaw: Drivers are reportedly turning off their headlights to see how "beautiful" the designs are.

Innovative Infrastructure

The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, visited the project site and spoke at the opening of the Smart Highway pilot area.

Schultz called the project inspiring and praised its combination of imagination and infrastructure.

"Imagination and technology can coexist," Schultz said. "For me, this is a shining example of innovative infrastructure."

Future of Futuristic Roads

The original idea also incorporated Dynamic Paint, which becomes visible in response to temperature fluctuations, enabling the road surface to "communicate" conditions to drivers. For example, painted snowflakes would appear when the road surface became cold and slippery.

Studio Roosegaarde
Studio Roosegaarde

Roosegaarde hopes to include several other ideas into future Smart Highways, such as paint that alerts drivers of weather conditions.

"The goal is to make roads that are more sustainable and interactive by using light, energy and road signs that automatically adapt to the traffic environment and people," Studio Roosegaarde explains.

The design firm also has a handful of other ideas it hopes to incorporate into future versions of the Smart Highway, including interactive lights that come on as a car approaches, wind-powered lights, and a lane with special coils under the surface that can charge an electric car as it drives.

   

Tagged categories: Coatings technology; Health and safety; Lighting; Roads/Highways

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/17/2014, 3:43 PM)

As I discovered with other proposed glow striping - the glow clock starts when the sun is no longer directly on the stripe. In many areas, a stripe could easily be in shadow cast by roadside objects (buildings, trees, shrubs, even tall grass) for a couple of hours before sunset and several hours before full dark. It also doesn't address having a cloudy/rainy day where the stripe will charge very little. Finally - a road test of less than a month will tell you very little about durability.


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