The weekend is here and the most obvious recreational activity that comes in our mind is a getaway. Long highways, lush green trees on both sides and those high standing street lights to illuminate your way. But the same lights can be a sight for the sore eyes too, given the obvious reasons of all the dangling wires, and safety for high speed vehicles, seen crashed to such poles every now and then.
To resolve the issue, a Dutch scientist and his team of designers have been working for several years to develop a technology, some call as the Glowing Paint and some as the Glowing lines. Designer Daan Roosegaarde chose his hometown, a small town about 60 miles southwest of Amsterdam, as the place for his pilot project. What happened next was truly mesmerizing! The 5 km long stretch of road with no street lights, known as the Highway N329, started glowing with green paint that illuminate the edges of the road like an airfield landing strip at night.
Designer Daan Roosegaarde calls it the 'Highway of the future'. But, this is not the only 5km of a stretch that he worked hard on. His vision is to replace existing infrastructure with smart roads that communicate with drivers. He envisions building roads that can charge the electric cars and color-changing paint that alerts drivers to weather conditions. He argues that, when the cars can get smarter, why can't the infrastructure that supports them.
Roosegaarde is working with a Dutch company, Heijmans, since 2012, when he first unveiled the concept of glowing roads, to develop a luminous paint. “The road industry is one of the most conservative industries out there,” he says. “But I love them because they determine what a city looks like much more than the cars do. In a weird way, nobody cares about them. I think that should change.”
The concept is pretty simple, if Roosegaarde is to be believed. He says that the researched stuff is nothing but a supercharged version of traditional glowing paint, which works on the principal of luminescence, as it absorbs solar energy. Explaining the technology, Roosegard says “It’s more advanced than the glow-in-the-dark paint you and I know, which only works for 30 minutes—completely useless.”
Instead, he claims that the paint lasts for more than 8 hours before again getting recharged by the sun. But about rainy weather, you may ask? In case of extreme clouds and rain, the roads can be charged using a solar panel. “Even though it’s rainy most of the time in the Netherlands, It’s still good enough.” says Roosegaarde. The solar panels can be used otherwise too, for storing solar energy and using it as electrical energy. So, in all, there is a scenario of complete green energy.
The roads are not only adding to the future sustainability of our infrastructure, but also acting as a mean to attract tourist from around the globe. People travelling to the Netherlands, specially visit the place to appreciate the beauty of the roads. “I’m Dutch, so there’s always a pragmatic and poetic agenda,” Roosegaarde says. The designer believes that whatever is beautiful, also gets more respect, and that will ultimately lead to the commercial success of the project. The cost of the project is not revealed by either the government or the designer himself, but it's pricey from the traditional street lights, that's for sure.
Is this limited to this strip of road or will it be expanded further? Roosegaarde is using this stretch for the durability and usability before rolling it out to other countries and clients. Infact, Dutch minister of infrastructure has already asked the studio to build 20 miles of more glowing roads. Tokyo, a technology oriented city, also has expressed interest in bringing the roads to the city for the 2020 Olympics, as have cities in the UK. Roosegaarde added, “We got crazy calls from sheikhs in Qatar who were asking, how much for 1,000 kilometers?”
While India is still struggling hard to adopt some of the existing safety technology available in the world, this surely is easier to adopt. But with all the pedestrians crossing the roads and all the animals moving here and there, lights are a necessity. For Roosegaarde though, the idea of a fusion of the physical world with the technology is inevitable in coming times, and the glowing highways are just a start.
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