Improved road longevity and safety could be on the horizon with a new a graphene-based asphalt additive that has been proven to create a more durable and sustainable road surface.
It's getting to the point where it seems like adding a dash of graphene can improve just about anything. The latest example is something you probably wouldn't expect to benefit from the addition of this practically magical material: asphalt. While roads may not be the first thing that springs to mind when considering areas for technological advances, two Italian companies have come together to combine graphene and asphalt and create a more durable and sustainable road surface.
Graphene is a form of carbon that is built up of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It is the strongest material ever tested and conducts heat and electricity.
Through a joint R&D process, Directa Plus, a producer of graphene-based products, and Iterchimica, which specialises in additives for asphalt, have developed a patent-pending asphalt additive that incorporates Directa Plus' Graphene Plus technology. Dubbed Eco Pave, the resulting additive is claimed to significantly improve the durability and sustainability of asphalt road surfaces.
Graphene is a layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice
The companies say that the improvements in asphalt properties are the result of graphene's thermal conductivity, which makes asphalt mixed with the additive less likely to soften in warm temperatures or harden and crack in cold ones. The additive also reduces road wear, particularly under high loads, by increasing the elasticity and strength of the asphalt. It is estimated that adding Eco Pave to asphalt has the potential to double the average life of a road surface from the current six to seven years up to 12 to 14 years.
It is this capability that the companies say makes the additive a particularly attractive and economical option for road maintenance applications, such as repairing potholes. Importantly, asphalt mixed with Eco Pave is also recyclable, with up to 100 percent of the milled asphalt able to be repeatedly reused in the laying of new pavement, thereby reducing landfill and the need to extract new bitumen.
The companies say Eco Pave has already proven itself in laboratory testing and small-scale trials, and will now be tested in several kilometres of asphalt as part of a pilot test to be conducted with an asphalt producer. They also claim that Eco Pave can be sold at a commercially viable price, particularly when considering the life-extension potential of the additive.