An integral part of human nature is our propensity to conceptualise what the future may hold. How the urban landscape will look in 10, 20, 50 or even a hundred years is a topic that occupies artists, writer and filmmakers but the types of materials the metropolis of the future will be made out of is something that our imagination often overlooks. In this article, we take a look at some of the exciting research developments set to advance (or even replace) current asphalt technology.
Long life asphalt pavement
Scientists have found a way to limit bottom up fatigue cracking on pavements and increase the lifespan of asphalt roads beyond 50 years provided they receive periodic maintenance. By using the Fatigue Endurance Limit theory to more accurately predict how much strain asphalt can take before it becomes damaged, scientists believe they can increase the lifespan of the average high use road from 20-40 years to beyond 50.
If the plastic road concept of Netherlands based company VolkerWessels proves to be effective, then asphalt may be rendered obsolete in the future. The company claims to have created a ‘maintenance free’ road that is capable of handling the same weather extremes as asphalt and can even be constructed from recycled plastic. Although the plastic road project is still only in it’s concept phase, VolkerWessels is a company known for their innovative infrastructure solutions, creating the world’s first solar road, so there is every chance that this asphalt replacing concept will become a reality as well.
Inbuilt de-icing technology
Come winter, icy road surfaces are a common cause of accident and injury so to combat this, researchers in Turkey have developed asphalt that is capable of de-icing itself. Manual de-icing is a costly, time consuming activity which has a marked corrosive effect on the road surface and a detrimental effect on the environment. Researches at Koc University in Istanbul created an emulsion containing potassium formate which has similar de-icing properties to salt but is vastly more environmentally friendly. The emulsion was then mixed with bitumen and tested in standard winter weather conditions that are often conducive to black ice. The hybridised asphalt mix delayed the formation of ice for ten minutes longer than the control and continued to release the potassium formate for several months afterwards.
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