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Self-Healing Asphalt: Hope for Eradicating Potholes

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Pothole season is here again. No matter what brand or category of car, SUV, truck, or minivan you drive, these destructive dents in the asphalt can definitely wreak havoc on your vehicle’s tires and undercarriage. Current initiatives in science might help make potholes a thing of the past, however.

Swiss researchers have recently patented a process that gives self-healing properties to asphalt, which in turn, would prevent potholes from forming in the first place. The method could also make the road itself last twice as long—an achievement deserving its own accolade.

Etienne Jeoffroy and a team of colleagues from the Complex Materials lab at ETH Zurich and Empa (the Swiss Institute for Materials Science) created a magnetic nano-particulate additive that, when incorporated in asphalt, helps the asphalt bind up its cracks. Scientists create the additive by mixing iron oxide nanoparticles with bitumen, a thick, sticky substance derived from crude oil. All that’s needed to fix the cracks is to heat the asphalt using a small magnetic field. This, in turn, melts the bitumen so it can seal up the cracks.

Jeoffroy and his team envision that someday in the near future, every road will use this nano-tech infused bitumen. And, since no additional equipment or special skills are needed to use this special asphalt mixture, road crew workers can easily include the additive when they mix the asphalt like they usually do. The plan would involve vehicles equipped with magnetic field generators driving over the road surfaces to trigger the heat and fuse the cracks in the road.

Per Jeoffroy, the additive could also be applied directly to potholes, on an as-needed basis. That’s great news for any driver frustrated by these pesky craters. The team is currently collaborating with commercial companies in the area to help finesse the method and make it as cost-effective as possible.

We anticipate more details on this fascinating development as Jeoffroy and his team work on tweaking the practicality of their additive and make strides for implementing it on modern roads.

News Source: Business Insider UK