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The Next Revolution in Transport? Roads That Heal Themselves
Recently, developers at Delft University have developed a steel-infused asphalt that can be heated to get rid of potholes, cracks and loose stones, thereby saving millions on road repairs. The technology works by adding steel wool to bitumin, the binding agent that asphalt usually uses to hold the tiny stones together
Christopher Schlangen, a PhD student at Deflt University, has shown that if asphalt that contains these steel fibers is heated using an induction machine, the bitumin melts and therefore cracks and potholes rejoin. This could double their lifespan. Although he uses a microwave rather than an induction machine in the TED Talk below, its enough to show you the premise.
The potential to heal roads has a multitude of positive consequences. Firstly, there are the economic impacts: Schlangen estimates that the Dutch government could save 9 million by implementing his roads, despite the 25% more money they require to install.
In addition to this, self-healing roads would mean fewer loose stones to flick up and chip windscreens, fewer potholes to damage axles or wheels, and fewer roads being closed for repair.
Although he is focusing on a means of perfecting his healing formula, Schlangen envisages a possible future use: charging cars at traffic lights. He said that “putting steel fibers in the asphalt means that you can send information to it, so it might be possible to charge electric cars on the road they’re driving on.”
These discoveries are similar to recent developments made in self-healing concrete by Cardiff University. Their project involves using bacteria to create self-healing concrete, according to the same principles as bone remineralization.
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