Glow-in-the-Dark Roads Now a Reality


A smart highway that promises to save energy while improving safety was unveiled along a 500-meter stretch in the Netherlands last week. Interactive and self-sustaining, it’s being called the “Route 66 of the future.” 

The project is designed and developed by Daan Roosegaarde and Dutch engineering firm Heijmans Infrastructure. Earlier this year, we posted about other Studio Roosegaarde projects: houseplant reading lights and bioluminescent streetlamps. Now, this glow-in-the-dark technology actually exists on the N329 highway in Oss, about 100 kilometers southeast of Amsterdam.
The road markings are made with paint containing photo-luminescent powder that charges in the daytime and then releases a green glow at nighttime. Roosegaarde tells Wired UK that Heijmans had managed to take its luminescence to the extreme: "It's almost radioactive.”
If the glow does last the whole eight hours it’s supposed to, this could mean dispensing with energy-guzzling, maintenance heavy streetlights. “The government is shutting down streetlights at night to save money,” Roosegaarde tells BBC. "I was completely amazed that we somehow spend billions on the design and R&D of cars but somehow the roads — which actually determine the way our landscape looks — are completely immune to that process.”


Written By: Janet Fang
continue to source article at


  1. “If the glow does last the whole eight hours it’s supposed to”

    On a yearly average, earth days have 12 hours night and 12 hours day. If you are at a latitude where you get 8 hour nights in summer you get 16 hour nights in winter. Does no one drive in winter at 4am in the Netherlands?

  2. It’s not clear to me how luminescent road markings would be significantly more effective than reflective road markings and “cats eyes” that we already have. We need to get rid of unnecessary clutter and light pollution from our streets. Better reflective markings and sensory lights should be the way forward.

  3. Fun as glowing trees will be, this won’t be a substitute for street lights. If anything, actively glowing strips down roads may give a false sense of security, encouraging you to drive with dipped head lights where perhaps you should have high beam. You’ll not see that cow in the middle of the road otherwise.

    Glass bead loaded road markings do this job more cheaply and encourage headlamp usage, already.

    Street lamps are already on a development path to much reduced energy use. Of old, these would be discharge lamps like, SOX, SON, HID, CDM/CMH etc. These are reasonably long lived high efficacy lamps (100 to 120 lumens per watt) that latterly could be dimmed only poorly to save money at low traffic times (so it was mostly never done).

    LEDs currently match these efficacies, can create much more efficient and accurate beams, last for many times longer and can be dimmed easily down to zero, and when dimmed increase in efficacy by up to 40%, making dimming a double benefit in energy saving.

    Further their colour quality exceeds that of the most efficacious discharge lamps reducing the actual amounts of light needed for given levels of visual acuity.

    Street lamps could be reduced to say one tenth of their current level during times of low/zero traffic flow yet still allow obstacles to be seen, dropping running costs to 7% or less of the high flux (light and traffic) condition. (This would also even further extend lamp life.)

    Cree, one of the major innovators of LEDs, has just announced LEDs in the lab with efficacies of 300 lumens per watt (starting to get close to the theoretical limit of perfect energy conversion) at standard current densities. These will run very cool indeed and may outlive humans.

    Running costs (energy usage) may fall to 25% to 2.5% of current levels depending on time of night and traffic flow.

  4. Is anyone reminded of the graphics in a video game? I hope they publish the reactions of drivers after the initial period of adjustment.

  5. @OP The road markings are made with paint containing photo-luminescent powder that charges in the daytime and then releases a green glow at nighttime. Roosegaarde tells Wired UK that Heijmans had managed to take its luminescence to the extreme: “It’s almost radioactive.”

    The concept of charging during the daylight hours and luminescencing during darkness, could be good for most for the time, but if alternative systems are abandoned, long overcast winter days, or when roads are blanketed with snow, could be a worse problem than they are now.

  6. In reply to #2 by Simon Tuffen:

    light pollution

    I strongly suspect that the International Dark-Sky Association will love this idea – saves energy / allows natural day-night pattern for light sensitive critters (e.g. confused turtles attempting egg burying at all hours).

    sensory lights

    Interactive Lights is planned along side glow lines.

  7. They may be on to something here. Lines are painted on roadways with or without luminescence. I don’t see why we would need to take reflectors off or remove the glass, just add the luminescence to what we already have.

    I think if people were really worried about road safety they would stop pretending that painted lines will keep them, or anybody else from falling asleep at the wheel, having a heart attack, or a mechanical vehicle failure which could cause them to drive unhindered right over their fancy lines. To explain my point of view out I wrote a short Canadian story. I’ll let you be the judge if this helps.

    It is spring time once again and there is much work to be done. The glory of the drudgery to come begins to fill the people.

    There are many projects that need to be completed, but a few of them are of the utmost importance to the people. There have been many people injured and killed on the roads. They are tired of seeing their loved ones lost in on road collisions and want to do something about it. They decide their first, and easiest step will be to put concrete in the middle of every road to eliminate head on collisions. While they are at it they will build bridges over every intersection and put in separated bike lanes so the people can ride their bikes in safety.

    The people take their places at the mines of plenty, farms of plenty, and the oil fields of plenty. There are resources of plenty beyond the peoples imagination. There are people of old experience and new at the ready all over the country. Standing by at the concrete plant of plenty and the asphalt plant of plenty, and the re-bar plant of plenty. The people get in their trucks and excavators, dozers and graters, rollers and cranes, and all of the other equipment required to do the job. Labourers, engineers, environmentalists, and surveyors are all in place with plenty of resources ready to be used.

    The people are filling with ambition and joy at the thought that one day they may not have to see any more devastating and preventable collisions.

    The people hear a sound or feel a vibration coming from their phones; they have received a message. It is from the government and it reads as follows: ‘We do not have any money’.

  8. In reply to #6 by bluebird:

    I strongly suspect that the International Dark-Sky Association will love this idea – saves energy / allows natural day-night pattern for light sensitive critters (e.g. confused turtles attempting egg burying at all hours).

    I agree luminescent lines are better at countering light pollution than permanent street lights, but aren’t reflective lines that only “glow” when needed better than luminescent lines that will glow all night long, mostly pointlessly? I don’t understand what the problem is with reflective lines. Whatever system is in use, it must be well-maintained to be effective. If someone can’t see well maintained reflective lines, reflective signs and cats eyes, it strongly suggests to me that they shouldn’t be allowed to be in charge of a motor vehicle! The best way to improve road safety is to ban semi-blind drivers.

    If the lines on the road are too bright, just like oncoming headlights, they could distract the eye from seeing hazards such as potholes, debris, as well as pedestrians, etc. Anyway, no doubt the experts will test these things!

  9. I live in the Netherlands and one thing I can tell you is that when it rains (and it rains a lot) the current lines are almost invisible. I’ve heard that this is deliberate so that drivers slow down to match the road conditions but I have no idea if this is true. Let’s assume for a moment that it is not true and that simply the old technology was unable to deal with water on the road. These new lines should shine through the water and make the markings easier to see even when it is wet. I agree with others that say that 8 hours is not enough, but if that means that the lights only need to be switched on after 8 hours of darkness then it is still a massive saving.

  10. I’m not sure how this can replace street lights. How will objects like pedestrians and animals be illuminated at busy intersections, off ramps etc?

  11. @ comments 8 and 10 ~

    After moseying around – first, I think the design team has “highways” in mind (Route 66 reference), hence, no references to pedestrians / potholes / busy intersections. For wandering animals, I guess the light sensors would help with that.

    Second, I’ve the impression that Mr. Roosegaarde is way keen on leaving “old” technology behind (reflective strips and cat eyes probably seem downright archaic); to the future, and beyond!

    sidenote – one possible problem raised by another article is: drivers might turn off headlights to get full effect of “glow-in-darkness”, d’oh!

  12. Glow in the dark makings were tried near us many years ago. They were taken out after it was found that the local boy racers were switching their headlight off!
    Must say though that otherwise with our street lighting on the main road – we must have some of the best lit rooftops in the North of England.

  13. You have to wonder about some designers- here are 3 reasons it won’t work.

    1. That stuff NEVER lasts 8 hours or anything remotely approaching it – you can see it get dimmer within minutes of removing the light – unless someone HAS used the original radioactive material (unlikely) or discovered a brand new fundamental mechanism – it’ll be good for an hour or two at best…
    2. Dirt, wear and tear. Most of the time, roads are covered in dirt – you don’t see it so much on the black bits but you do on the white – this will reduce the amount of light striking the material
    3. Sunshine – EVEN if the two items above could be resolved it would only be useful in the likes of Spain – not here were the quality of sunlight is rubbish most of the time.

    This is just entirely the wrong way to do it. A solution was proposed a while back… solar cat’s eyes. The little devices would have a LED light, sensor and photocell. They would collect light in a tiny battery during the day and NOT give off light when no-one is around but would only give off light when detecting headlights at night. Now, here’s the thing… it’s pitch black and foggy – how do you know if a car is in front of you if they are beyond what you can see in the fog. Simple (I thought of this) – these cats eyes could stay on for a few moments after a car passed and change colour – so instead of seeing, say green lights come on as you drove along the road, they’d be yellow (for example) indicating a car had just recently passed. The sunlight required would be minimal as they would only be on for short periods much of the time.. and as the glass would be refractive, if all else fails they would fall back to being cats eyes! Brilliant idea (certainly with the proposed mod above) – never went anywhere as far as I can tell. As for cost – if the Chinese can produce garden lights that last most of the night for a quid… surely some inspired inventor could make these with some durability for – what – a couple of quid each?

Leave a Reply