The end of potholes? Graphene is being used to surface a street in Oxfordshire in first UK trial of ‘wonder material’ that could prevent cracks and double the lifespan of roads2019-11-20
Potholes may soon reach the end of the road, as an Oxfordshire village hosts the first UK trial of a graphene-based wonder material designed to prevent cracks forming.
Graphene is a super-strong material made of specially-structured carbon.
Work will begin today on laying a 820 yard (750 metre) -long stretch of the wonder material on the main road through Curbridge, west of Oxford.
The construction should be completed within ten days — ready to put the finished road to the test against the demands of a wet, pothole-cultivating British winter.
The surfacing product combines graphene with recycled asphalt and is less likely to soften in the heat or harden and crack up in colder temperatures.
According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance, the present backlog of dilapidated roads in England and Wales will take ten years and £9.8 billion ($12.6 billion) to repair.
Poor road surfaces contributed to 517 accidents in 2018 — including eight fatalities and 348 serious injuries — the Department of Transport has reported.
Graphene is a form of carbon — like diamond and the graphite that makes up pencil lead — in which the component atoms are structured like a sheet of honeycomb.
The material has various unusual properties — including, in its crystalline form, being the strongest material ever measured — and was first discovered by researchers from the University of Manchester in 2004.
The new surfacing material, Gipave, will be made by incorporating a small amount of a graphene-based additive to partly-recycled asphalt, a common road covering.
Although around 20 per cent more expensive than conventional asphalt, experts believe its durability and extended lifespan will provide savings in the long run.
The graphene-enhanced asphalt is being developed by two Italian firms — Directa Plus and Iterchimica — who are providing the funding for the trial in Oxford.
'The road degradation will be monitored over the next year, with results helping to prove the business case for using Gipave instead of conventional asphalts,' Directa Plus chief executive Giulio Cesareo told the Times.
If tests in Oxford prove successful, the graphene surfacing may be used to repair roads in other locations across Britain.
'Conversations are ongoing with other highway authorities in Europe and the Middle East for further tests in different climatic conditions.'
Tests have already been planned for both Oman and the US, with commercial sales of Gipave expected to begin next year.
The Gipave material was first put to test on the outskirts of Rome in the September of last year, on a stretch of the Via Ardeatina, where initial results suggest that use of the novel surfacing could considerably lengthen a road's lifespan.
'The results have been excellent after a year of testing, which included a winter and a summer season,' Iterchimica chief executive Federica Giannattasio told the Times.
'The material has been shown to last for two and a half times that of a conventional asphalt road.'
According to the developers, Gipave is a greener alternative to conventional road surfaces, as it can be both recycled and requires lower temperatures to be laid.
'Our technique disposes of 20 tonnes of plastic per kilometre of road,' added Ms Giannattasio.
'The only current alternative is for the plastic to be burnt.'