Every discovery or innovation that we have had in these few decades in construction materials has changed the way we look at the structures and the way we can utilise them with our designs.

But among the newer creations, light-emitting cement could be a path-breaking solution to a plethora of problems. This material can be put to innovative use to various typologies and can fulfil multiple scenarios. There have been attempts in creating sustainable measures in self-sufficient, light-generating measures or materials, with less embodied energy. Some of the solutions that people around have come up with are creative and bold experiments to reality.

Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch artist and founder of Studio Roosegaarde, gave us the stunning ‘Gates of Light,’ in response to the preservation of the historic floodgates of Afsluitdijk. The idea was to preserve and impart an iconic status to it. Any measures for electrification would lead to diminishing the beauty of the bridge.

Solution? Use micro prisms to coat stripes on every member of the gate. The light from an oncoming vehicle radiates the light back and the outlines of the dike shine as one passes through it.

Inspiration? “We looked at the wings of butterflies, how they use reflection to create colour. It’s very interesting, it’s not pigment so it doesn’t fade away,” he says.

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With every passing vehicle through the bridge, the stripes of mini-prisms light up the gates bright. This adds to the iconic importance and divinity of dikes within the country. Gates of Light, Daan Roosegaarde ©Studio Roosegaarde  Afsluitdijk, Netherlands
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Miniature prisms later were installed upon the gates. These light up without any requirement of electricity. Gates of Light, Daan Roosegaarde ©Studio Roosegaarde, Afsluitdijk, Netherlands

He has done similar other projects that involve active use or generates the results through light. These methods, however innovative, are comparatively time-consuming and costly as well.

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Glowing Nature, Daan Roosegaarde, Studio Roosegaarde Afsluitdijk, Netherlands ©www.studioroosegaarde.net

The Friesland bunker was home to the ‘Glowing Nature,’ an art installation where the light-emitting algae glow upon touch. These algae cultured are over 700 million year old and cover the entire bunker of area 50 Square Meter.

ENTER, THE NEW LIGHT

The game-changing phosphorescent cement is the brainchild of Dr. José Carlos Rubio, from Mexico’s University of San Nicolas Hidalgo. Due to a strong gel-like substance formed upon the surface of cement while it cures, among its unwanted by-products. This material is sustainable since it is formed by condensation of silicates usually found in clay, sand, or dust. The only gas it gives out is water vapours, making it an eco-friendly material as well.

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Van Gogh Path, Daan Roosegaarde, Studio Roosegaarde Afsluitdijk, Netherlands ©www.studioroosegaarde.net

This bicycle track is an example of how the particles can light up the road after the sun sets.
This is a tribute to the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, with his signature swirls from the portrait ‘Starry Nights.’

Fluorescent materials made of plastic last only 3 years, as it starts to decay under continuous exposure to UV rays. However, the light-emitting cement has the power to remain lit 12 hours after dark and has a lifespan of 100 years.

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The sample block of light-emitting cement glows in darkness after exposed to light source.©Sialato

POSSIBLE APPLICATIONS

For starters, this material can be used for highways for road indication purposes. This way, it can help wayfinding as commuters travel along the way.

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Glowing Lines, Daan Roosegaarde, Studio Roosegaarde in collaboration with Heijmans Infrastructure. ©www.studioroosegaarde.net

On similar lines to Van Gogh Path, this road was made using a special coating that absorbs daylight and glows in the night, serving as a beacon towards the commuters’ journey.

This also solves the problem of low-lit places like parking lots and many such spaces, where constant illumination is required. Applying this cement in a tile form on the most sunlight exposed wall can give out enough illumination to light up the space. That can ensure better visibility for security and surveillance as well.

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Mile End Residents ©Flickr

Parking lines and curbs made with cement would serve as an efficient marker, even under indirect light. This can also serve as a landscaping material when used artistically.

The gel-like formation is also known to prevent the growth of fungus, yeast, and other living organisms. This could also find their place in F&B, manufacturing industrial complexes with higher standards of cleanliness.

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©renderings from Glowee

This material could also play an important role in restoration and renovation applications in projects of urban scale, promoting a welcome image change and perception.
The perfect analogy – Philips Lighting India associated with Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation to add decorative lighting to Gateway of India.

Currently, this cement is commercialized and manufactured on a larger scale. Available in blue or green colours, the glow can be controlled to avoid unnecessary glare upon the commuters. This cement is sold in the form of tiles per square meter basis and reported to cost up to $60-$80 per sq m.

NRK Sudheendra Teja
Author

N. R. K. S. Teja is an architect, who loves minimalist works, survives on spicy food and an internet junkie, absorbing all kinds of information related to interior design and architecture. He believes if drawings speak more, words articulate better.

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