Belgian road construction first: luminous concrete
At the construction site of the Euro Space Center in Transinne, there’s is a Belgian first: luminous concrete. This material diffuses glow at night. It can be used for decoration or lighting, for example, for cycle paths and parking lots, and has the advantage that it lasts for decades, whereas paint has to be redone every two or three years.
Effect of 6 to 10 hours
In this concrete, one of the latest innovations on the market, small elements of recycled plastic with natural pigments are integrated. During the day, they absorb UV rays. At night, they release them. The effects can last between 6 (in the winter) and 10 hours (in the summer). These elements are deposited on the surface of the concrete or integrated into it.
In Belgium, a manufacturer of concrete paving stones and slabs, Interblocs based in Libramont, was attracted by this new technology and decided to adapt it. In September 2019, it launched a range of luminescent products called TagLight. The first projects are now coming to fruition.
One principle, three variations
“These recycled composite materials can be used in three different ways,” says Julien Rock, Marketing and Sales Manager, in the newspaper Le Soir. “First, there are small particles, which come in the form of fake gravel. By day, the pavement looks like conventional concrete, a mixture of gravel of different aspects. At night, only the particles light up. A myriad of dots is revealed.”
“The second variation is what we call ‘inserts’. Unlike false gravel, these have geometric shapes: triangle, square, cylinder, and round. These inserts are embedded in concrete and provide a more orderly appearance at night. Finally, the third variation is a powder, always of the same material, which is mixed with the concrete. In this way, luminescence appears over the entire surface.”
All these luminescent concrete products have many applications. The powder variation, for example, can be used to produce slabs with logos. A ‘P’ for parking, a bicycle, a logo for people with reduced mobility, etc. It also can be used to warn for a driveway, to signal a traffic circle, to mark out a cycle path, or to outline the contour of a swimming pool. All the luminescent concrete products meet a series of resistance standards: to impact, friction, freezing, and thawing, etc. They can, therefore, be used in public infrastructure.
The only condition: there must be no artificial lighting in the vicinity. Otherwise, the glow effect is canceled. Total darkness is, therefore, necessary, which limits the possibilities in town centers.
Expensive but feasible for infrastructure works
Interblocs doesn’t hide the fact that it is precisely the public contracts that seem to be the most promising commercially. The luminous concrete has a significant extra cost that can deter the private individual: more than ten times the price of conventional concrete.
On the other hand, it becomes profitable in the framework of infrastructures. “Let’s take the examples of a footpath or a bicycle path,” says Julien Rock. By using luminous concrete, the municipality can avoid all the costs related to lighting: posts, LED lamps, a trench for cables, connection to the electrical network… Overall, our price can be competitive.”
Ecological and non-polluting
The TagLight thus seems to be envisaged for the creation of a planned cycle path on the border between Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. Named “Soft mobility 3 borders”, this path should benefit from European funds.
In the meantime, this luminous concrete will see its first achievement in Belgium. It will be used to create a tourist pedestrian walk of about 1,5 km around the Euro Space Center building in Transinne, in the province of Luxembourg. Plus: it’s a totally ecological and non-polluting technology. Rock: “For the Euro Space site, as we border a Natura 2000 zone, we had to prove that it had no ecological impact.”