News: Luminescent paint to help improve safety on UK roads

Glow with the flow

Glow in the dark roads

PLANS ARE under way for Britain’s first glow-in-the-dark roads, giving familiar routes a science fiction feel. From next year luminous turquoise lines will mark the edges of tarmac and divide cycle lanes from the main carriageway. The idea is to improve safety and cut streetlights’ energy usage.

The first roads to acquire luminous paint could be in London: the mayor, Boris Johnson, is said to be backing the concept. Birmingham is also considering the idea as part of regeneration plans for the Longbridge area.

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The Highways Agency, which runs Britain’s motorway and trunk road network, is said to be interested in testing the system: the route from Heathrow to the centre of London is one candidate for a trial of the glowing paint.

Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch designer, has developed the technology and last month opened a stretch of road in Oss, in the south of Holland, where the white edge markings have been replaced with photoluminescent paint.

Three narrow trenches half an inch deep were dug into the highway, and the paint was poured in. During the day it absorbs energy from sunlight, releasing it as a green-blue glow at night. Roosegaarde says that the paint is conductive and can be connected to the mains so that on longer nights, when stored solar energy runs out, electricity can maintain the glow until sunrise.

“It makes the roads safer,” said Roosegaarde, “You follow the glow of the light and you can switch off streetlights, which reduces glare. It’s at least 10 times more energy-efficient than streetlights.”

Roosegaarde is now creating a cycle route speckled with glowing stones that resembles a starry sky — the “Van Gogh path” — and has had meetings with Transport for London (TfL), the body that runs the capital’s roads. “Boris is a big fan,” he said.

The Highways Agency said it was watching the glowing road scheme in Holland “with interest”. TfL said it was “constantly looking at and testing new ideas to improve our road network”.

Other Roosegaarde ideas are temperature-sensitive paint that will glow in snowflake shapes when the weather turns icy, and glow-in-the-dark trees genetically modified with jellyfish DNA.


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