Self-sustainable smart highway is becoming a reality
I admit, I love driving, especially in the dark, and yes, I am guilty of driving thousands of miles in my past life all around Europe.
During those long drives, looking at the endless lineup of lights on the highway glowing all night, I often wondered and said to myself ‘There has got be a better way’. The highway lights are a constant presence throughout a journey. They stand out especially between the towns and cities when there is not a lot around you. A decade ago they were a mark of engineering and you could see them as banners of the modern age. Today everything around the lights has improved a lot; the cars, the roads, the safety measures etc.; the lights now seem so dated…
This is why I am very excited to see artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans Smart Highway project finally becoming a reality with the ‘Glow in the dark road’ having been unveiled on a 500m stretch of highway in the Netherlands. It is a very simple but powerful idea to use paint that contains a "photo-luminising" powder. This paint charges up with exposure to solar radiation during the day and slowly releases a green glowing light in the night removing the need for electrified lights.
Many countries and road transport authorities are already looking at this innovation and monitoring the progress of the dutch pilot project very closely. Some see this as a sustainable alternative to curb the energy consumption of today’s roads while others are considering it as an alternative for currently unlit and future roads. Countries with stringent safety regulations may also be concerned that this new technology will improve safety on roads and not just improve sustainability.
The technology does come with its own inherent challenges such as its dependency on solar energy. Many regions of the world experience very short daylight hours in winter and the stored solar energy may not sustain adequate light through the prolonged nights. Other challenges include visibility, skid resistance in different conditions, luminescence in fog and their performance in winter. All these factors must be tested before they become a part of the road design standard.
Nevertheless, it is the first time "glowing lines" technology has been piloted on the road and can be seen on the N329 in Oss, approximately 100km south east of Amsterdam. This 500m stretch of highway in the is to become the ‘road to the future’ to make our roads self-sustainable and energy efficient.