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Canadian City Looks to Paint to Light the Way

Friday, September 8, 2017

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It’s well known that reflective road paints can help to magnify the effects of street lights and vehicle headlights for nighttime safety, but the city of Calgary may soon be joining a select few jurisdictions worldwide that are taking the idea a step further, lining their streets with paints that glow.

Glow in the Dark Road (Netherlands)
Studio Roosegaarde

In 2014, Studio Roosegaarde and Dutch infrastructure company Heijmans collaborated on a highway lined with glowing paint, but the luminescent lines were soon damaged by rainfall.

A recent report from the Calgary Herald indicates that the city is looking into using luminescent paint on some of its more remote roads, eliminating the need for lighting systems while improving safety. The director of the city’s roads department told the newspaper he is considering the approach for less-travelled roads with fewer pedestrians, where there is currently no lighting system.

The plan is still in its earliest stages; the city is reportedly working with a private consultant for grant funding and the Herald reports that the city has yet to find a supplier for the glowing paint, variations of which have been used to different degrees of success in Europe.

Past Attempts and Developments

In the Netherlands, in 2014, design firm Studio Roosegaarde worked with infrastructure contractor Heijmans to add luminescent striping to the N329 Highway, in Oss, as part of its “Smart Highway” project. The smart coatings, the studio says, charge in daylight and glow overnight up to 10 hours; the project was the first of its kind.

But the real-life trial on that Dutch road quickly showed that the formula couldn’t stand up well to rainfall; the moisture caused parts of the glowing lines to fade, leading Heijmans to rethink the project. Later the same year, Studio Roosegaarde created the glowing Van Gogh bicycle path in Nuened, Nethlerlands, using similar technology to make the path's pavement light up in a pattern similar to the artist's famous "Starry Night."

A Baltimore developer is piloting a similar glowing bike path in that city.

More recently, a team of researchers in Mexico announced the development of photoluminescent cement, which could be used in the construction of roads and other pieces of infrastructure. The cement is modified with phosphorescent materials that allow it to glow in the dark for up to 12 hours after charging even on a cloudy day, the scientists say.

The cement cannot be used structurally once it’s been modified by the phosphorescent additives, but can be laid over structural concrete to add its glow.


Tagged categories: Roads/Highways; Specialty Coatings

Comment from M. Halliwell, (9/8/2017, 11:31 AM)

I wish Calgary all the best, but with being a northern city with long, dark, snowy winters I think they have significant challenges to overcome with "glow time", charging and durability.

Comment from Scott Youngs, (9/11/2017, 7:06 PM)

Adding to M. Halliwell's comments, one of the "challenges" would be seeing the luminescent glow through the brown dirt/gravel they put on the roads for traction in the winter. It takes quite a while for it to wash off...

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