Materials

World-first resurfacing project mixes graphene into freshly laid UK road

World-first resurfacing projec...
Graphene additives may help boost the longevity of road surfaces
Graphene additives may help boost the longevity of road surfaces
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Graphene additives may help boost the longevity of road surfaces
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Graphene additives may help boost the longevity of road surfaces

One of the many areas graphene promises to have transformative effects is in fortifying construction materials like concrete and asphalt. A first-of-a-kind trial now underway seeks to apply the wonder material's impressive attributes to one of the UK's major thoroughfares, by deploying it in a road resurfacing project along a stretch of the A1.

Made up of a single sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern, graphene offers incredible strength and flexibility, and by incorporating it into materials like asphalt scientists hope to develop road surfaces that last far longer, and therefore cost less to maintain.

Back in 2017 we looked at an interesting take on this from a pair of Italian companies that developed an asphalt material doped with a graphene additive to make it less likely to soften in the heat and crack in the cold under high loads. This product, known as Gipave, also incorporates plastic pellets and was recently rolled out along stretches of UK roads as part of trials to see how it can extend the lifespan of the surface.

As reported by the BBC, this new trial differs in that National Highways will be adding the graphene to the mix on site. The road authority will scrape up the existing asphalt along a three-mile (4.8-km) section of the A1 in the north, add in the raw graphene on site and then apply the fresh mixture to the surface, a technique it bills as a world-first.

"Laboratory trials have been a success and the on-site trials in Northumberland will be a world first use of graphene in road production, which enforces our commitment to innovation and helps to push the industry towards more carbon-friendly maintenance with longer-lasting solutions which we all benefit from," says National Highways Asset Needs Manager Graeme Watt.

The trials are being carried out with researchers at the University of Manchester, where graphene was first isolated back in 2004. Since then, scientists at the university have continued to uncover exciting new properties of the material and broaden its applications, which recently included putting it to use as the world's first graphene-enhanced concrete slab.

The "revolutionary" resurfacing project is due for completion on November 3, with its performance to then be monitored to see how it prolongs the lifespan of the road.

Source: National Highways

9 comments
9 comments
Mike_S
Resurfacing in UK needs an addition of a year or two warranty from resurfacing company. This will insure a good quality work. Not an inch of tarmac thrown on damaged road's surface (seen in Coventry in almost any so called re-surfacing cases).
Robt
What are the advantages of adding the graphene at the build site versus at the production point?
Cost? Ease of use?
madsci
given what I know of the cost of graphene, this can't be the most cost effective method of improving asphalt performance. Assume its just a proof of concept.
paleochocolate
@Robt resurfacing always involves reusing the previously laid asphalt so adding the graphene on-site seems to be the only viable option anyway.
TechGazer
For resurfacing, the advantage of adding an improvement material on site is lower cost: you only need to transport the additive, rather than moving asphalt. For new roads, probably no difference. I'm skeptical that it will make much difference, but that's what real-world testing is for.
AnthonySteeIe
I had some graphene tyres and abused the hell out them they seem really tough
AnthonySteeIe
I really think graphene is a miracle material
ljaques
Wouldn't either graphene or plastics reduce the traction tires get on the surface? I trust this has been studied first? (cringe)
CarolynFarstrider
I have a queasy feeling about this. The road surface will gradually wear out, albeit more slowly than other materials. But what are the implications of free graphene particles in the environment - in soil, air, water, wildlife, human food……? Look at micro plastics… are we heading for the same or a worse catastrophe here?