Seeing in the Dark: Developing Specialty Chemicals to Light Up Roads for Safer Driving

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specialty chemicals
Will specialty chemicals soon bathe our roads in light?
Image source: Flickr user pHotosHo0x

Each year, almost 1.3 million people in the United States die in road crashes, with an astonishing average of 3,287 deaths each day.1 Unsurprisingly, a large number of these fatal accidents occur at night, and though extraneous factors such as driving speed, alcohol use and sleep deprivation contribute to the danger of driving at night, researchers do agree that “low luminance plays a major role in this effect.”2

Luckily a number of scientists have been considering this problem and individuals focused on specialty chemicals have arrived at a novel kind of solution: light-absorbing glow-in-the-dark road markings created from photoluminescent paint.3 Not only do these roads “light up” the paths of drivers, but they can save on “energy-guzzling” street lights. Trials have already gotten underway in the Netherlands, and in September a new startup was awarded $7,000 to develop a photoluminescent paint that can absorb sunlight during the day and use that energy to glow at night.4

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

As competition heats up to uncover which company can make the best specialty chemicals to light up our roads, complications are already arising. For example, in the Netherlands, some road markings have been washed away after rainfall.5 Given that companies, especially ones who jumped into development and testing early, can live and die by their reputations (and the fast decline of startup funds), it is essential that product innovation is carefully controlled and monitored, a process made significantly easier by the use of software.

Innovation in Specialty Chemicals with the Support of Software

Companies that develop specialty chemicals for photoluminescent roads or any other use should consider implementing appropriate software that provides a complete solution for R&D needs. Considering the situation of photoluminescent paint can provide an idea of what such a solution can offer:

Wash-resistant paints: Specialty chemicals sometimes have to be remade a number of times before they meet particular specifications. In the Netherlands, paints developed for use on roads should have been tested for their wash-resistance by adding a variety of specialty chemicals that prevent the luminescence from being washed away. Electronic laboratory notebooks could have enabled researchers to quickly access the experiments that were done to create the photoluminescent paint and efficiently adjust the formulation to withstand the elements. This integration of past and present efforts makes the job of product innovation much easier and likely to occur at a faster pace.

Safety: In the Netherlands the paint washed off, but what would have happened if the paint was combustible or possessed some other hazardous feature? Safety is an essential part of all product development and understanding how specialty chemicals can be combined to form beneficial—but also potentially negative—properties is of utmost importance. A chemical management system is then essential for researchers to track and monitor the safety information of specialty chemicals they plan to utilize, while also knowing what is available in their inventory before requesting new (and possibly expensive) ingredients.

Visualization tools: Being able to visualize a specialty chemicals product is another important step in its development. For example, in the creation of photoluminescent paint developers can consider how the color of certain specialty chemicals might affect the visibility of the road or alternatively its brightness when it rains. Software with visualization capabilities allows researchers to “test run” their ideas and products before investing significant amounts of money. This can provide them with novel ideas on how to create new specialty chemicals or even where to place them on a road, for instance.

It’s crucial to consider the importance of detailed notes on experimental protocols, conducting literature searches and knowing what chemicals are present in the lab space, while still visualizing the potential product. BIOVIA Chemicals Research and Development Solution can address all of these aspects by integrating various components of the BIOVIA product line into a single platform. Especially for companies focused on specialty chemicals, the comprehensiveness of this software will enable a firm to stay ahead of fierce competition by promoting product innovation and maximizing efficiency. To consider how the BIOVIA Chemicals R&D Solution can support the development of specialty chemicals and other products, please contact us today.

  1. “Road crash statistics,” http://asirt.org/initiatives/informing-road-users/road-safety-facts/road-crash-statistics
  2. “Road traffic casualties: understanding the night‐time death toll,” April 2006,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2564438/
  3. “Glow-in-the-dark roads make debut in Netherlands,” April 13, 2014,
    http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/04/glow-in-the-dark-roads-make-debut-in-netherlands/
  4. “Biomimetic non-reflective coating for solar cells wins MADMEC,” September 29, 2015,
    http://news.mit.edu/2015/biomimetic-non-reflective-coating-solar-cells-madmec-0929
  5. “Glowing roads take a rain check,” May 8, 2014, http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/05/glowing-roads-take-rain-check-photoluminescent-paint-netherlands-holland

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