Glowing highways make it look like we’re driving through eco-fairytales


Glow-in-the-dark roads recently debuted on a 500 meter stretch of Netherlands highway!  Brought to you by the guy behind glow-in-the-dark trees.  He’s been burning the candle at both ends – not so much to increase light levels, more to roll out new applications of his natural luminescence designs.

Standard street lighting has been replaced by light-absorbing glow-in-the-dark road markings in this pilot project, first proposed by Studio Roosegaarde in 2012, now installed after an arduous government approval process.

All reports indicate that the road safety project is more like a stunning art installation. A local news report said, “It looks like you are driving through a fairy tale.”

Smart-Highway-glowing-lines-Studio-RoosegaardeDaan Roosegaarde, studio founder and lead designer, told ARStechnica, “I was sitting in my car amazed by these roads we spend millions on – but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.”

He imagined road lighting provided by naturally glowing plant life or bio-engineered surface coatings. He thought about markings integral to road surfaces that would be triggered by temperature change to broadcast weather news to travelers (see image above).

This project is limited to glow-in-the-dark road markings on the N329 highway in Oss, and was developed in cooperation with road construction company Heijmans by combining photo-luminescent powder into road paint.  

There is tremendous potential for products like these given stressed government budgets, ratcheting transportation operation and maintenance costs and ever-increasing demand for electricity. Heijmans plans to expand the project after monitoring performance of this first installation, but some challenges are expected. The paint emits light for up to eight hours but light quality is diminished by uneven application or rough surfaces.  Eight hours is also insufficient in longer hours of northern winter darkness.

Studio Roosegaarde is a social design lab where artist Daan Roosegaarde with his team of designers and engineers create interactive designs that explore the dynamics between people, technology and space. They aim to bring technology and design to the real world, with practical and beautiful results.

Roosegaarde makes an open plea to governments around the globe to facilitate labs like his, “We should create labs in the city where we can experiment and explore these kinds of solutions. Like a free zone. We want to do it safely, but just give us a park and we’ll prove it to you. Be more open.”

Direct application of glowing pavement markings are impractical throughout much of the Middle East, where roads are not naturally cleansed of dust and oil by frequent precipitation. Here in Amman, light-reflective road markings are rendered ineffective soon after installation as vehicles grind dirt and debris into the sun-softened thermoplastic paint – preventing the light-reflecting components of the coating from performing their intended function. Bit this extraordinary pilot is a promising first step towards embedding renewable technologies into transportation.

Images from Studio Roosegaarde

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