Yes, that’s right – tiles that light up. It might seem a tad futuristic, perhaps even hard to imagine, but it’s exactly what a Castellon-based company recently presented to initial bemusement but subsequently increasing interest from the engineering and design sectors.

The initial reaction is that the new product is clever and fun, though a little gimmicky, but look at it closer and you’ll see Afterdark is not just clever – it’s a serious new innovation that opens up lots of exciting future applications.

Light that tingles in the dark

The tiles, which can accommodate a disparate range of decorative styles and even end-use types, effectively glow in the dark in what can be described as a titillating display of colours and patterns. What’s more, the system uses neither electricity nor cords – or indeed switches. It works on the principle of photo-chemical reaction, as tiny chemical components embedded within the ceramic material of the tiles absorb and store light in the form of energy that is released again in the dark.

This is why the light produced ‘glows’ in dark conditions, creating a natural source of light at times when there is no daytime or manmade light. Because the rate of storage and release varies greatly the light display is highly variable in character too.

New applications

Conventional tile users may not be convinced, but the new technology developed by the ceramic tile manufacturer TAU, of Castellon, opens the doors to many new possibilities in the fields of construction, design and architecture.

According to the company’s Director of Innovation, Javier Portolés, interest from these sectors is also beginning to manifest itself. Architects, in particular, have responded positively to the new product, as it widens the range of tools at their disposal and no doubt will provide the inspiration for a great many novel designs and concepts.

The fact that the system is entirely practical and efficient, not requiring any electricity and offering the same aesthetic, practical and maintenance qualities as conventional tiles, plays to its advantage. There are practical applications in security situations such as evacuations from large buildings, when power cuts are both very likely to occur and usually heighten the level of panic and related accidents and injuries.

Here, the tiles would provide a valuable safety feature, though most immediate interest goes out to the decorative possibilities created for both interior designers and architects who want to make a bold statement in private, corporate, retail and public areas. Time will tell just how big the impact of Afterdark will be, but already this Spanish innovation is providing designers around the world with a whole new set of possibilities.