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Smarter Cities

Illuminating Discovery: Lighting Roads Without Electricitiy

The project of smart highways: interactive and sustainable
The project of smart highways: interactive and sustainable
Itay Lahat

TEL AVIV — Vincent van Gogh's famous oil painting "Starry Night Over the Rhone" displays a wonderful enchantment technique. Occupying two-thirds of the canvas, the night sky is dotted with moon and stars, creating an illusion of movement, as if they were trying to burst out of the canvas. It's not just a masterpiece. It also uses paint as if it were light itself.

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"Starry Night Over The Rhone" by Vincent Van Gogh

When Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch designer focusing on phosphoric lighting, was commissioned to design a bike path in the Eindhoven region of the Netherlands, where van Gogh once lived, he used colorful stones that glow in the dark. During the day, the path hoards solar energy, which is then emitted at night, making the trail look as if it were itself a van Gogh piece.

Roosegaarde is a European leader in smart roads — interactive, friendly and environmental thoroughfares. One of the ways he makes roads smarter is by using colors that glow in the dark.

Instead of requiring huge amounts of energy to illuminate roads that are often unused at night, Roosegaarde uses phosphoric colors to print the lanes on his experimental road in the Netherlands. At night, they turn the driving experience into something between a discotheque and a futuristic world.

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Daan Roosegaarde and the director of Heijmans, major European construction-services company. Photo: Studio Roosegaarde

The project's inspiration came from the depths of the ocean, from bacteria and other marine creatures that glow in the dark. And the experiment joins a growing number of projects that harness progress in this field over recent years. A year ago, British firm Pro-Teq released a product called Starpath, a phosphoric liquid particle that can be sprayed on any surface. The energy accumulated in the chemical during the day is emitted at night in the form of blue phosphoric light. Cambridge City Council has already started converting its park trails into phosphoric blue in favor of the old lighting.

At the same time, the American company Bioglow has begun marketing saplings of the plant known as Starlight Avatar. These are simple plants that have been genetically modified to include phosphoric lighting from deep sea creatures. They look like any other plant during the day but become a luminescent green source of light at night.

The field holds immense promise, as it could pave the way, so to speak, to the end of public lighting that requires electricity. Street lights eventually may be replaced with trees that have been genetically modified to glow in the dark.

The phosphoric pastel, in other words, is the new green.

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Eyes On U.S. — California, The World Is Worried About You

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Ginevra Falciani and Bertrand Hauger

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For as long as we can remember, the world has seen California as the embodiment of the American Dream.

Today, this dream may be fading — and the world is taking notice.

A peek at the Italian list of non-fiction best-sellers in 2022 includes California by Francesco Costa, a book that looks to explain why 340,000 people moved out of the state last year, causing a drop in its population for the first time ever.

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Why are all these people leaving a state that on paper looks like the best place in the world to live? Why are stickers with the phrase “Don't California my Texas” attached to the back of so many pick-up trucks?

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