Light-emitting cement could mean the end of streetlights

glow cement

Earlier this month José Carlos Rubio, from Michoacan’s University of San Nicolas Hidalgo, announced that he had developed a solar-powered, glowing cement that could be used to illuminate roads, bike lanes and walking paths at night without the need of electricity. Additionally, the cement could also illuminate buildings and structures.

Nine years ago, when I started the project, I realized there was nothing similar worldwide, and so I started to work on it. The main issue was that cement is an opaque body that doesn’t allow the pass of light to its interior.

Rubio explained that cement is dust, but when mixed with water it dissolves and forms gel. The addition of water produces tiny crystal flakes that block light, taking note of this, Rubio eliminated the crystals flakes so as to make it completely gel, this made the cement to absorb solar energy and then return it to the environment as light, “In that moment it starts to become a gel”, similar to the one used for hair styling, but much stronger and resistant; at the same time, some crystal flakes are formed, these are unwanted sub-products in hardened cement”

According to Rubio, in 2015 global cement production was of about 4 billion tons, this is where this new material can have a widely commercial market. During the early hours, buildings, roads, highways or any form of structure made out of this new cement will absorb solar energy and then emit it during the night for about 12 hours.

Unlike most fluorescent materials made out of plastic with an average lifespan of 3 years, this new cement is sun resistant, doesn’t degrade when exposed to ultraviolet rays and has an has an estimated lifespan of 100 years. Also it is ecological because of the material it is made of; sand, dust or clay that becomes the gel, and during it’s making the only residue is water steam.

Powering streetlights alone accounts for about 25 to 50 percent of the municipal energy bill in most cities, according to CityLab, draining energy resources and eating deep into budgets, with this new cement cities will rely less on streetlights to illuminate roads. Currently, it exists in blue or green color, and the light intensity can be regulated to avoid dazzling drivers or cyclist, or unnecessary glare.

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