Sensors and green materials
One recent idea is to embed Radio Frequency Identification chips in an asphalt pavement to monitor stresses and strains within a road surface and detect cracks. “The sensors send condition data to a central Cloud system that oversees the health of a road, allowing for authorities to make timely interventions,” Haopeng explains.
Another concept is the self-healing highway. Scientists have found that nature-based green materials, such as sunflower oil can reverse the ageing effects of bitumen – the material used to coat aggregate in an asphalt road – by making the binder less ‘viscous’, or sticky. Haopeng says that colleagues at Nottingham are developing capsules containing sunflower oil that can be buried within a road, releasing their contents only when asphalt begins to crack to help strengthen a highway and lengthen its life.
Further areas of interest for the research fellow include the use of rubberised crumb sourced from old vehicle tyres as a substitute for a proportion of virgin material used in road construction. “Every year we generate a vast quantity of waste tyres. By grinding them down into small granules, they can be introduced to the bitumen to replace some of the primary material,” he says.
Other applications involve the addition of crushed concrete, aggregate and glass to road materials. “Using recycled demolition waste from construction sites in highways also allows limited resources of natural aggregate to be preserved.”
In addition, the academic is exploring how roads could be designed to incorporate inductive charging technology, allowing electric vehicles to be recharged on the move rather than at fixed stations.