Four Egyptian engineering students have created something to usher in a brighter future. What is this wondrous invention?
It’s a block of concrete!
That’s it. A block of concrete sitting on the floor. It looks like concrete. It feels like concrete. What’s the big deal?
Well, turn off the lights and watch it glow.
That’s right. This thick, rock-like cube is self-luminous. It glows in the dark.
Okay, it’s pretty cool, but still—why?
Next time you’re driving through a town or city, count the streetlights. You’ll probably lose count before long. They’re ubiquitous. Most of us simply don’t pay attention to the numerous sources of artificial illumination any longer. But each one sucks up energy. New York City alone relies on over 310,000 streetlights, and that racks up quite an electric bill!
Cities can spend millions of dollars per year just to keep the streetlights on. But the problem goes beyond the municipal wallet. Generating that much energy contributes to pollution.
But what if the road itself could glow in the dark? Self-luminous concrete could make that happen. And to get this concrete glowing costs a whopping zero dollars. That’s because self-luminous concrete doesn’t need electricity. It just needs sunlight.
If you’ve ever owned a glow-in-the-dark toy or accessory, you’ve probably held it up to a light to make it glow. But have you ever wondered exactly why that works? Glow-in-the-dark materials contain substances called phosphors. Phosphors absorb energy and produce—you guessed it—light. The amount and color of the light depend on the phosphors involved.
The glow-in-the-dark stars on a child’s bedroom ceiling probably don’t give off much light. But the glow-in-the-dark concrete developed by Egypt’s engineering students could shine brightly enough to cut back on the need for streetlights.
In our modern world of Mars rovers and VR technology, glow-in-the-dark concrete might not look like a flashy invention. But this small innovation could make towns and cities cheaper, cleaner, and safer for people.
“This idea will be useful on roadways; it will ration energy, as it will absorb sunlight in the morning and glow at night,” says Mayar Khairy, one of the students who invented the concrete. “At the same time, it will help attaining peace (security) as it will illuminate the dark streets at night.”
After all, you don’t need to worry about dark alleys if the alleys themselves glow.
Why? Big change can come from small things. Glow-in-the-dark concrete might sound like a strange invention, but if used right, it could do some good.
Think: What negative consequences might glowing roadways introduce? Can you think of cautions to consider before cities implement this new technology?