Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Visit the TPC Store
Search the site




Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Follow the Glowing Road

Friday, June 24, 2016

Comment | More

Could roadways of the future illuminate themselves? If research proceeds the way scientists at a Mexico university plan, glow-in-the-dark cement could light the way without the need for electricity.

A team at Michoacan University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo, led by José Carlos Rubio Ávalos, has developed a phosphorescent cement that it sees finding use in the construction of highways, bike paths or buildings.

Modifying Materials

Glow-in-the-dark trails and highway surfaces aren’t exactly new. In 2014, a Dutch civil engineering and infrastructure company unveiled a bike path that lit itself up at night in homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “The Starry Night.” That project covered stones with a smart coating that absorbed sunlight during the day and glowed at night.

In 2013, that same firm also collaborated on a “smart highway” project that utilized glow-in-the-dark, solar-powered paint to light up the road at night and warn drivers of treacherous conditions. In 2014, the smart highway tested lines made from paint containing a photo-luminescent powder to replace street lights along the roadway.

However, the Michoacan scientists looked beyond the application paint and went straight to the structural material itself. The team tweaked the internal structure of cement itself so that, with additives, it can become phosphorescent in the dark, Scientific American reported.

Making Cement Glow

“Cement is an opaque body, it does not allow the passage of light to the interior, so we must make a change in its microstructure to allow a partial entry of light into the interior for it to have this behavior,” Rubio Ávalos told the science publication.

Through the use of additives, the researchers are able to prevent the formation of crystals that occur in the production of cement; this creates a “material with a noncrystalline structure—similar to glass—that allows passage of light inside,” the magazine wrote.

The scientists are able to control the intensity of both luminescence and color by adjusting the amount of additives added during production. The product, which is both eco-friendly and sustainable, Rubio Ávalos told pop culture news site Fusion, emits light as a greenish-blue color. He added that he’s working on reproducing it in red and purple as well.

Because of the physical changes that occur within the cement, it is not able to be used in structural applications, however. Instead, the team notes, is meant to be added to existing surfaces as a coating material.

Still, the modified cement boasts a very long shelf life versus phosphorescent products such as plastics or paints, depending on end use, Rubio Ávalos claims.

On a daily basis, after the phosphorescent materials within the cement absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the surface should be able to glow in the dark for as long as 12 hours, even on cloudy days.

Future Applications

It took Rubio Ávalos three years to apply photoluminescence technology to concrete, and he was awarded a patent in 2014.

He plans to apply the technology to a range of products that go beyond highways and cement, and says he’s received interest from potential investors.

“The technology has not yet been produced, but we are working on commercializing it,” he said. “We are getting invitations to test the material and we have some options in Europe, where they have asked us to illuminate docks and coast lines.”

While it is expensive in comparison to regular cement—$25 per square meter versus $7 per square meter in Mexico—Rubio Ávalos noted that it could prove cost-effective in the long term, since it relies on solar power rather than fossil fuels.

Along those lines, Carmen Andrade, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council Institute of Building Sciences in Madrid, told Scientific American that she sees future use in developing countries: “It’s an application that can be worth developing in countries and areas with poor access to electricity in communities with poor life levels, as it doesn’t consume electricity.”

More research is planned to determine costs producing the quantities needed to build or maintain large infrastructure projects, as well as how to repair the material.


Tagged categories: Additives; Cement; Coatings Technology; Infrastructure; Lighting; Roads/Highways; Solar

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Carboline Company
New product: Carbozinc® 608 HB
Introducing a new high build zinc-rich primer that can save you time and money by eliminating the epoxy intermediate coat!

Jotun Paints Inc.
Jotun Jotachar 1709
Mesh-free passive fire protection epoxy designed to protect against hydrocarbon pool fire scenarios for up to four hours as defined in the ANSI/UL1709 standard.

Tarps manufacturing, Inc.
QUALITY MADE IN AMERICA —Available near you!
CLICK to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Tarps Manufacturing makes the highest-quality tarps right here in the USA — available nationwide.

SAFE Systems, Inc.
SAFE Systems'
Blast Lights &
Deadman Switches
Halogen or LED blast lights available with our NEW urethane bumper. Switches available in many colors for color coding your hoses.

ARC / A.W. Chesterton Company
Rapid Curing Coating
Cures under adverse conditions with maximum adhesion

HoldTight Solutions Inc.
Full Surface Protection for Up to One Year
HT 365 is a preservation, single component, anti-corrosive coating, a water displacing agent, a lubricant, and a penetrating fluid. It creates an imperceptible thin-film coating that offers excellent salt contaminant and humidity protection. Contact your HoldTight® representative or visit for more information.

New resins from BASF will have metals loving water!
Excellent corrosion resistance, low VOC, high gloss, thin films 800-231-7868

Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America
Performance Amine 1,3-BAC
A highly reactive cycloaliphatic diamine offering superior performance. Reasonable cost and curing efficacy makes it suitable for all types of epoxy resin applications.

Blastox/The TDJ Group, Inc.
Blastox® - One Step Lead Abatement
Sandblast additive delivered to jobsite pre-blended to eliminate hazardous abrasive wastes. Why mix, meter or apply at the job-site? Blast with ease and
Let your painters paint!

Absolute Equipment/Grand Rental Station
We have Tier 4 Equipment including Air Compressors & Generators for Sale & Rent! Your job may now require Tier-4. or Call 412-931-6655.


Technology Publishing Co., 1501 Reedsdale Street, Suite 2008, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL

The Technology Publishing Network

Durability + Design PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy Policy   |   Terms & Conditions   |   Support   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us