Researchers at Michoacan University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo in Mexico have designed a new type of phosphorescent cement that could illuminate highways or bike paths without using electricity. The development could have tremendous implications for cycling safety.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost half of all cycling accidents occur between 4 PM and midnight. Current safety techniques, including bright clothing and flashing lights attached to bikes, all requires proactive measures on the part of the cyclist. Having bike paths that illuminate automatically would be a major step up for cyclists.
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The problem has always been cement. "Cement is an opaque body, it does not allow the passage of light to the interior, so we must make a change in its microstructure to allow a partial entry of light into the interior for it to have this behavior," says José Carlos Rubio Avalos, the leader of the team.
These microstructural changes come down to preventing the growth of normal cement crystals, which creates a noncrystalline structure similar to glass. These changes also make the material phosphorescent. Because cement is inorganic, its phosphorescent properties wouldn't quickly dissipate. "The solution was found in inorganic chemistry," Rubio Avalos says, "producing a cement with different optical properties allowing transmission and reflection of light." Even on a cloudy day, cement could absorb enough energy to glow for twelve hours at night.
The cement has already been patented and is entered the commercialization stage. It could become the next step cities take to make their streets safer for those who don't spend all their time looking straight ahead, like texters.
Source: Scientific American