The light emitting cement

Can we imagine the future of our infrastructures without public lighting, because the road itself will generate sufficient light for a good visibility? Can we imagine a house without artificial power, because the walls will enlighten the rooms? José Carlos Rubio, a Spanish professor from Michoacán’s University of San Nicolas Hidalgo, answered to this question creating a new kind of material: a light-emitting cement.

The created material adsorbs natural light during the day and returns it to the environment during the dark hours, and it can last for up to 100 years. Cement is a binder with excellent cohesive properties but poor optic application, due to the strong bonds between components that make cement an opaque body that doesn’t allow the pass of light to its interior. How did the professor to make it bright?

Il cemento che illumina

There is a chemical reaction between cement dust and water, that can be compared to an effervescent pill; the main product of this reaction is a strong and resistant mixture that starts to become a gel, but there are also other unwanted sub products like some crystal flakes.

Researchers focused 9 years on the cement’s micro-structure, trying to eliminate those crystal flakes and make the mixture completely gel; after a long time, researchers discovered that by eliminating those sub products, the cement reproduce a fluorescent material, capable to absorb radiation is in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum and to emit light in the visible region.

This material it’s incredible because of his life span: while the most fluorescent materials, that are made of plastic polymer, have an average of 3 years of life span because they decay with UV rays, this new cement is sun resistant and has an estimated life span of 100 years.


Il cemento che illumina

Furthermore, this material it’s totally ecological because it’s made out of sand, dust and clay, and during his industrial making the only residue it’s water steam, differently from the production of Portland cement that releases CO2 in the atmosphere and is also one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

By the morning, the road, highway or structure that’s made out of this new cement can adsorb solar energy during the day and emit it during the night for around 12 hours; it can also be used in the new buildings, especially in rooms that don’t require a lot of light, like bathrooms.

This material is ecological, natural and it has the same structural properties of Portland cement, and currently it exists in blue or green color!


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Massimiliano Russo
Laureato Triennale in Ingegneria Civile e Ambientale presso il Politecnico di Bari, laureato Magistrale in Ingegneria Strutturale presso l'Università di Pavia. Responsabile editoriale di BuildingCuE, in passato ha scritto anche per Teknoring. Per questo la divulgazione scientifica rappresenta la sua missione quotidiana.