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Paving the Way: How one chemical makes roads safer

Modern roads look the same in almost every country, dark asphalt marked by bright white lines. This is no accident, city planners have put countless hours of thought into making our roads as safe as possible, and one chemical plays a crucial role.

Rapid transformation

Roads have been in existence for thousands of years, but for most of their history they were travelled on by horses and carriages at speeds not far above walking pace. Over the past century however, cars have meant people travel at speeds almost faster than humans can naturally react. This has meant a huge amount of consideration must be put into the way roads are designed so as to keep people as safe as possible. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is key to this.

Clear as day

Today many countries have specific requirements to ensure that markings are bright, visible and clear. TiO2 plays a core role in fulfilling these requirements, as it is among the brightest white substances in the world. Its use in road markings means that motorists have the best chance at following the road. The way TiO2 interacts with light means that even at night, white road markings are shown up clearly in car headlights.

Bright at night

The idea of putting a white line down a road was first thought up by Edward N. Hines, who saw a leaky milk cart leaking along a road. However, not all whites are the same, and TiO2 is uniquely bright. Alternative colours, even alternative whites, simply aren’t as visible, and so could lead to more road accidents. This is why TiO2 is used in the extensively around the world to give the highest standards of safety.

European road safety is constantly improving, and a core part of that is making sure drivers are able to clearly see the road ahead of them. Thanks to brilliant white lines, the path ahead is bright and safe.


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