While many think of "glow-in-the-dark" materials as mere retro throwbacks to the '80s, scientists say that glowing luminescent technology could be the answer to building a more sustainable cities. From plants infused with luminescent DNA to roads painted with glowing green paint, recent experiments increasingly prove the viability of swapping electric lights for renewable and emission-free, glow-in-the-dark lighting. Keep reading to learn how recent developments in glow-in-the-dark technology could move us closer to a brighter and more energy-efficient future.
Recently, prolific Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde and civil engineering firm Heijmans nabbed headlines by installing the world’s first glow-in-the-dark road in the Netherlands. The futuristic road is lined with paint treated with photo-luminizing powder that charges in the sunlight and emits a green glow for up to 10 hours at night. The light-absorbing luminescent road paint was developed as part of Roosegaarde’s award-winning “Smart Highway” concept, which seeks to make our roads more interactive, environmentally friendly, and safe, particularly in rural areas that lack street lighting.
Although the pilot program was praised by users for its cool and energy-efficient Tron-like design, engineers ran into an early hiccup shortly after its unveiling. The glow-in-the-dark paint turned out to be sensitive to moisture caused by rainfall, which severely compromised the light output emitted by the markings. Undeterred, Heijmans says that the issue is but a temporary and expected stumbling block for the pilot program. The firm plans to use the insights gained from the month-long trial to introduce an update to Glowing Lines 2.0, which is expected to roll out this summer.
While the “Smart Highway” team irons out the kinks for the photo-luminescent roadways, Roosegaarde is pushing the boundaries of glow-in-the-dark technology in yet another invention that could replace street lights: auto luminescent trees. Working together with Bioglow, an American biotechnology firm that developed the world’s first light producing plants earlier this year, Roosegaarde and collaborator Alexander Krichevsky envision streets lit up by Avatar-style glowing trees. Taking cues from biomimicry, the light-emitting plants are created by splicing in DNA from luminescent marine bacteria. Krichevsky has also started a project separate from Roosegaarde that uses a light coating of “biological paint” rather than genetically modified material to make trees glow in the dark.
It’s unclear how soon glow-in-the-dark technology will supplement or even replace electricity-guzzling light sources, but recent scientific breakthroughs have firmly moved these innovative ideas from the realm of science fiction to reality. This great “first” might very well be the next stage in eco-living: just like the LED bulb, we predict that it’s only a matter of time before these cleaner and more sustainable forms of lighting become an affordable staple in our future world.
Great innovations in technology have had enormous impact on people’s lives, and changed the entire world forever. From the first electric light to the first phone call, and even the first email, innovation has moved us into a future that previous generations couldn’t have imagined. How have these historic firsts influenced your own life? How do you feel about this new glow-in-the-dark technology?
Doing things for the first time keeps the world interesting. It helps us progress and discover, but there has to be someone who’s prepared to step over the edge. It takes courage to cross an ocean or set foot on the moon, but it also takes collaboration, ambition and effort. All around us people are doing things for the first time and Vodafone wants to help them get there. We want to share their stories, because when technology and human endeavour come together, amazing things happen. Share your firsts with Vodafone here!