Roads and sidewalks could soon be lit without electricity, using a new type of glowing cement. Researcher José Carlos Rubio and his team created a new light-emitting material at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH) in Mexico.
The main issue Rubio encountered was that cement is an opaque material that doesn’t allow light to pass through it. In a press release, he explained that cement powder is mixed with water, it hardens and becomes strong and resistant, but during this process crystal flakes of unwanted sub-products form in the hardened cement. To eliminate the flakes, he modified the microstructure of the cement to make it a pure gel-like material.
The new, refined cement can absorb solar energy during the day and then emit light for about 12 hours at night. Rubio says most fluorescent materials are made out of plastic and only last for about three years before they decay because of UV exposure. This new cement, however, is sun resistant and therefore durable enough to last an estimated 100 years.
UMSNH has secured a patent for the technology and Rubio’s work received recognition from the Newton Fund, given by the Royal Engineering Academy of London. Currently, the researchers are looking to commercialize the luminescent concrete and working on incorporating it with plaster and other construction products.