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Editorial comment

The World Cement team recently visited a UK plant that is rethinking the way we approach cement and cement additives, demonstrating that whilst the industry’s primary focus remains on emission reduction technology, new ideas and creative research remain present.

This summer, word has spread concerning the research conducted by scientist José Carlos Rubio into glow-in-the-dark cement. Dr Rubio, working out of the Michoacan University of Saint Nicholas of Hidalgo in Mexico, has created a light-emitting cement that is designed to illuminate roads, pavements and bicycle lanes without using electricity. The energy-efficient material is capable of soaking up sunlight during daylight hours and begins to emit light as the sun sets.

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In his paper on the product, Rubio explains the science behind his research, and the multiple possibilities and potential applications for light-emitting cement. He explains that, when water is added to common cement, crystal flakes are formed that block the absorption of solar energy. Rubio concentrated his research on modifying the micro-structure of the cement in order to eliminate the crystals.

The majority of fluorescent materials are constructed from plastic and have an average life span of three years because they decay under UV exposure; however, Rubio’s new cement is UV resistant and has an estimated lifespan of 100 years. On top of this, Rubio claims the material is ecologically sound as it is constructed from sand, dust or clay that becomes a gel, and gives off only water steam as a by-product.

This Mexican project has provided the inspiration for other countries to follow in Rubio’s footsteps. The researcher commented, “Due to this patent (the first one for this university), others have surfaced worldwide. In the UK, we received recognition from the Newton fund, given by the Royal Engineering Academy of London, which chooses global success cases in technology and entrepreneurship.”

Rubio’s invention has forced the cement industry to re-imagine how to use the material. The material could be used for exterior and interior applications. Rubio says that Doctors Without Borders have already shown an interest, opening up the possibility that the light-emitting cement could be utilised in areas where access to electricity is not guaranteed. A pilot plant is currently being built, with material expected to be produced before the end of the year, however, serious investment is required before the product can be commercialised.

One may be forgiven for assuming that not a great deal is changing within the world of cement. In today’s industry the focus is largely on reducing emissions and streamlining the production process. Nevertheless, Rubio’s research confirms that invention and innovation is still alive and kicking! We would love to hear your comments on this new product. Do you believe in the real-life application possibilities? Please contact us at or with your thoughts.

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