José Carlos Rubio from Michoacan’s University of San Nicolas Hidalgo (UMSNH) has created a new type of cement that stores solar energy in order to transmit light. One day this material may be used to light highways. This ecological technology gives back all of the light it absorbs from the surrounding environment. Rubio hopes his creation could be used to limit the need of electricity on roads around the globe.
Rubio began working on the project about nine years ago and was shocked that there wasn’t anything similar being created around the world. The main issue he faced was the fact that concrete cannot be penetrated by light. Cement is made up of dust and when applied to water, dissolves. This is when it turns into a very strong and resistant gel with some unwanted crystal flakes. The researcher put the focus of his research into modifying the overall micro-structure to get rid of the crystals and have a material simply made of gel. This gel makes it possible for solar energy to be absorbed and then given back to the environment in the form of light.
In 2015, Rubio said there was about 4 billion tons of cement created on a global scale each and every year, offering a very large market for his new creation. During the daytime, the futuristic concrete would have plenty of time to absorb all of the energy required to give light back during the nighttime hours. Rubio expects the light to be available for up to 12 hours without the need of additional exposure to energy from the sun.
While most fluorescent materials are composed of plastic and decay due to UV ray exposure within a matter of about three years, his new material is expected to last up to one hundred years due to its sun resistant properties. The product is extremely ecological because it is made of natural substances, including sand and dust. Upon creation, the only thing being emitted into the air is steam from the water. The gel is currently available in both blue and green and the intensity of light can be controlled to avoid glare and distracted driving.
This project has inspired other countries to begin doing their own research on more cost effective and environmentally safe solutions. The research is in the process of being transferred and commercialized. There are developments in place to make this technology available in the construction industry as well.