Engineering Students Develop Glow-in-the-Dark Concrete

Image courtesy of American University in Cairo.

Four undergraduate students in the Department of Construction Engineering at the American University in Cairo (New Cairo, Egypt) have developed self-luminous concrete to light up roadways and pavements without using conventional energy sources.

Zainab Mahmoud, Fatma Elnefaly, Mayar Khairy, and Menna Soliman created the concrete for their thesis graduation project. It is capable of absorbing sunlight and emitting light after dark, and it can also be employed along all sorts of roads from pathways to highways.

“The concrete helps to reduce the massive amount of energy used in lighting highways or street signals needed for safe rides,” says Mohamed Nagib AbouZeid, professor of construction engineering and project supervisor, who stressed sustainability and safety as two major themes for the project.

Mahmoud explains how the project aligns with Egypt’s sustainability goals thusly: “Using this material in Egypt in such a context will reduce heavy reliance on electricity and accordingly be an active step towards fighting climate change and saving the environment.”

According to Mahmoud, this latter concern is one of the major hopeful outcomes of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) to be held in Egypt this fall.

Concrete is often criticized for its detrimental impact on the environment, which is what sparked Mahmoud and her team to pursue novel ways of utilizing it.

“The idea of our research came from wanting to make an integral construction material like concrete more sustainable and environmentally friendly in both its creation and function,” she says.

According to team members, the development process involved extensive procurement and testing of materials to determine their effect on concrete. The group also focused on using materials that were locally available.

The students presented their work earlier this year at the Transportation Research Board 101st annual meeting held in Washington, DC. At the conference, the team met with experts in the field and received recommendations on converting their project into a product, says Soliman.

With that said, development is still in its early stages. “This research requires more experiments to provide reliable conclusions to plenty of crucial queries that remain to be answered,” Khairy notes.

However, AbouZeid is optimistic about the potential of the research, highlighting the need to improve and expand this work to enhance the properties of the concrete produced and minimize its capital cost at the first stage. “Future steps include producing larger quantities as pilot trials to be evaluated on actual field conditions, such as a small stretch of highway,” he says.

Source: American University in Cairo,