A fascinating read and raises, for me, far more issues of interest than I could have imagined.
A low-energy glow in the dark path trialled in a municipal park in Cambridge could be expanded to other areas of the city. Around 150 square metres of path in Christ’s Pieces park was coated with a polyurethane glue, UV-absorbent photo-luminescent particles and a biodegradable sealant in October last year. The aggregate material absorbs and stores energy from ambient light (UV rays) during the day. At night the particles release the UV energy, creating a soft blue glow that varies in intensity depending on how dark it is.
Cambridge Council Technical Officer Declan O’Halloran says the Council were “pleasantly pleased” with the Starpath system, adding: “We do see scope for using it elsewhere in the city.” He feels it is most likely to be used in other park areas, as well as on golf courses and around certain historic locations. “I’ve heard through the grapevine that some park managers are exploring this in certain spaces”, he adds. “It’ll be a niche product to begin with, but it has definite potential.”
The Starpath mixture can be applied to concrete, tarmac, timber or any hard stand substrate (solid base). It can be sprayed on and ready for use in under four hours, has no ongoing energy costs and creates no light pollution either. The technology can also breathe new life into old surfaces which might otherwise need to be removed and disposed of.
Hamish Scott, owner of Surrey-based Pro-Teq Surfacing, which created the Starpath, believes it represents a breakthrough in public lighting. “It’s not just something that’s a nice idea”, he says, “this is a real alternative”. He feels there are “endless” applications for the technology. “You could apply it onto the side of buildings; if the power goes, the Starpath will be the best option. It’s environmentally friendly, non-offensive, and it’s magical.”
A 100 square metre Starpath costs £7,500, which Scott claims is “significantly cheaper” than conventional street lighting. The company has also reported interest in the product from developing countries with intermittent power supplies.
However, Armin Mayer, Marketing Manager of GE Lighting, has doubts about its potential to replace traditional forms of street lighting, which tend to be costly to maintain as well as energy-inefficient. “There is a huge challenge in upgrading and transforming existing lighting infrastructure in our cities, especially dense urban centres, and there are high existing standards in terms of brightness”, he says. “I don’t know if glow in the dark applications really meet these.”
Photo credit: Pro-Teq Surfacing/Athena PR