AUC Construction Engineering Team Develops Glow-in-the-Dark Concrete

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Four undergraduate construction engineering students at The American University in Cairo (AUC) developed self-luminous concrete, which can absorb sunlight and emit light after dark. With sustainability in mind, the students embarked on their thesis graduation project to save energy by using concrete to light up roadways and pavements without much need for conventional energy-intensive sources.

“Sustainability is a main theme in this project. This new concrete possesses better appearance and helps reduce the massive amount of energy used in lighting highways or providing illuminated street signals or signs needed for safe rides,” said Mohamed Nagib AbouZeid, professor of construction engineering at AUC, who supervised the students’ graduation project. He added that it also enhances the safety on long stretched roads and highways.

 

In line with Egypt’s sustainability goals, Zainab Mahmoud, one of the team members, explained that one of the potential applications of self-luminous concrete involves integrating it within the infrastructure system by using it to light highways and bike paths instead of electric lighting. “The utilization of 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, which is one of the main goals of COP 27 that Egypt will be hosting this year.”

 

Mahmoud shared that learning of the criticism that concrete has been receiving regarding its detrimental environmental impacts sparked their interest in pursuing novel ways to utilize concrete. “The idea of our research originated from wanting to make such an integral construction material like concrete more sustainable and environmentally friendly in both its creation and function,” said Mahmoud.

 

Student Fatma Elnefaly explained that the challenging part of the process was selecting and obtaining the used materials, as they needed to study different materials that could serve the objective of their project and finally include only materials that fulfilled their criteria being locally available. “We needed to test the luminous effect of the selected materials and its effect on the mechanical properties of concrete,” she said.

 

Since the research subject is relatively novel, student Mayar Khairy said it necessitates extensive investigation and testing. “This research requires more experiments to provide reliable conclusions to plenty of crucial queries that remain to be answered.”

 

The students presented their work earlier this year at the Transportation Research Board 101st annual meeting, held in Washington DC. Student Menna Soliman said that attending the conference in Washington helped them engage with experts in the field and get recommendations on converting their project into a product that shall be made available in the future in markets.

 

AbouZeid is optimistic about the future 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 a highway.”

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Founded in 1919, The American University in Cairo (AUC) is a leading English-language, American-accredited institution of higher education and center of the intellectual, social, and cultural life of the Arab world. It is a vital bridge between East and West, linking Egypt and the region to the world through scholarly research, partnerships with academic and research institutions and study abroad programs. 

The University offers 40 undergraduate, 52 master’s and two PhD programs rooted in a liberal arts education that encourages students to think critically and find creative solutions to conflicts and challenges facing both the region and the world. 

An independent, nonprofit, politically non-partisan, non-sectarian and equal opportunity institution, AUC is fully accredited in Egypt and the United States.