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Graphene could soon be used to build and resurface super-strength roads. Oxfordshire council has recently started construction for a trial in Curbridge, Oxfordshire where they will lay down a 750 meter stretch of road using a special supermodifier graphene-enhanced asphalt. The pilot scheme is being managed by Italian company Directa Plus, specialists in graphene-based nanotechnology, while Skanska will be the primary contractor.
We’re always looking for new ways to provide best value for our customers and their communities, so we’re delighted to be the first to trial graphene asphalt in the UK.
Jim Daughton, Skanska, UK Business Director
Directa Plus’s graphene technology is branded under the G+ moniker which is produced via a unique process known as Plasma Super Expansion. Starting from natural graphite through various stages of expansion, exfoliating, and drying, the company can fabricate nanoplatelets in various forms such as liquid, powder, and paste. This means their technology can be tailor-made to the task in hand, whether that be in textiles, asphalt, or even golf balls.
The G+ supermodifier asphalt is being placed into the superficial layers of the road’s surface and will be compared with the traditional road surface. During the trial, assessments will be made, measuring the difference between resistance to deformation, service life, vehicle resistance, and permanent plastic deformation – not to mention how graphene road surface holds up to the demands of a wet, British winter.
It is thought that due to the combination of recycled asphalt and graphene – an ultra-strong allotrope of carbon in the form of a single layer of atoms – the supermodifier graphene surface can withstand colder temperatures and be less likely to harden and crack. Since its discovery, Graphene has proved to be 200 times stronger than steel and lighter than paper, at just one atom thick.
One of the pitfalls of traditional asphalt is that during the wet and cold conditions of the winter months its lifespan is limited as it cracks easily when subjected to heavy traffic. This is a major reason for the abundance of potholes in the UK: thought to be in excess of 100,000, potholes cost UK motorists an average of £730 million per year. What’s more is due to the current backlog of road repairs, it would take nearly 12 years for authorities to complete the current work load, a time-scale that is likely to expand with continual use of traditional asphalt.
Referring to the G+ technology, Daughton stated, “This innovative, fully recyclable product will help us more than double the durability of asphalt used in highways maintenance, thus significantly increasing the lifespan of our roads, while reducing carbon, which is key as we work with our supply chain to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.”
If successful, the trial could highlight the fact that the technology will enable local councils and governments to provide improved safer road conditions which would reduce costs for both road users and local authorities. Although the roads could be up to 20 per cent more expensive than conventional asphalt-based surfaces, experts have stated that its durability and prolonged lifespan would make it cost-effective in the long term.
Furthermore, the graphene-enhanced roads make traffic flow more efficient and therefore reduce fuel consumption, making it a more environmentally sound choice of material. These super-tough roads could be the ideal choice to help reach the net-zero carbon emissions over the next 25 years.
Directa Plus has been developing their products for industrial scale applications for some time, their latest graphene-based asphalt is in collaboration with another company based in Italy, Iterchimica.
This trial is an important step for Directa Plus and Iterchemica, in partnership, in proving the business and use case for the next generation of graphene enhanced road surfaces.
Giulio Cesareo, Chief Executive, Directa Plus
Further tests and trials are already being planned for graphene roads in the US and Oman.