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Dutchman brings glow to night-driving

posted 25 Jan 2013, 04:30 by Mpelembe   [ updated 25 Jan 2013, 04:33 ]

'Glowing lanes' on highways could spell the end of costly street lighting, according to a Dutch designer. Daan Roosegaarde's 'Smart Highway' involves photoluminescent paint markings on roads that are charged in sunlight and glow at night to denote lanes.

WADDINXVEEN, THE NETHERLANDS (RECENT) (STUDIO ROOSEGAARDE) -  A Dutch designer has put himself at the forefront of interactive road technology with a project to install 'glowing lanes' on highways, allowing

drivers to travel at night without the need for street lights.

Daan Roosegaarde's 'Smart Highway' uses photoluminescent paint on roads that charges in sunlight and then glows at night to denote lanes. A stretch of highway in the province of Brabant (PRON: Brah-bahnt) will be coated with the special weather-indicating paint in mid-2013 as a test of concept.

Roosegaarde's company Studio Roosegaarde worked with one of the biggest Dutch road manufacturers, Heijmans, to produce the glow-in-the-dark paint which can provide up to ten hours' worth of light. The design has already won Best Future Concept at the Dutch Design Awards.

Roosegaarde came up with the idea while driving on a highway himself.

"I was just amazed about all the impact the roads have, but at the same time they are not very interesting to look at, so we started to imagine can we make that more contemporary, can we make it more interactive, more energy sufficient, and teaming up with the engineers we have here and the Heijmans' people as well, the road manufacturer, thinking about how to create a sort of Route 66 of the future: Glowing lanes is one of them, making the paint which charge up at daytime and give light at night so you can skip away a lot of street lights," Roosegaarde told Reuters.

The designer says the photosensitive paint could provide a more cost-effective alternative to expensive, energy-intensive street lighting currently used by highways agencies. Roosegaarde says he was inspired by the light absorbing properties of jellyfish.

"What you see now is that there is incredible amount of hardware needed to have something very immaterial which is light, the gigantic street lamps and cables and wires and maintenance, I was always amazed by that, why can't we just look at how jellyfish behaves, deep in the water they have their own light," he said.

The paint is just one part of the Smart Highway concept. Other smart road feature designs include induction priority lanes that would charge electric vehicles as they drive over the road, interactive lights that switch on as cars pass, and wind-powered lights, although none are ready for trial. Another future plan is for snowflakes, invisible in normal weather conditions, to be painted on the road surface. When temperatures drop the flakes would glow, warning the drivers of possible frost.

"I think more and more we will have to look at interactive landscapes, at landscapes which are energy neutral, which are responsive to the environment, so there is a big chance that the pilots we are doing now will influence the rest of Europe as well," Roosegaarde said. He has received enquiries from as far afield as Saudi Arabia andIndia where power cuts are frequent and road lights are few and far between.

Prototypes of Roosegaarde's designs are on display in the hall of Heijmans, which says it's committed to examining radical infrastructure ideas, as head of sales and business development, Kristel van Haaren, explained.

"The infrastructure of the future is much more about the interaction with the user of the infrastructure and much more about the sustainability of the infrastructure, so the road being the source of energy," Van Haaren said.

The first glimpse of Smart Highway in the form of glowing lanes will be implemented by the end of this year on a pilot stretch of 150 metres of existing road in Brabant province.