Innovative Additions Could Help Asphalt Pavements Sense Damage—and Repair Themselves

This article was originally published in Catalyst, January 2022.

University researchers are investigating ways to extend asphalt pavement life and achieve cost savings by adding innovative materials to asphalt mixes. In a recent study, they found that enhancing asphalt mixes with graphite nanoplates and taconite concentrates offers new opportunities to improve damage detection techniques and repair subsurface cracks using microwave energy.

“Our research has developed a new type of asphalt material that can be cured of microcracks by microwave heating,” says Jia-Liang Le, associate professor at the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering (CEGE) and principal investigator on the project. “The material offers a cost-effective option for the early repair and rehabilitation of asphalt pavements.”

The transportation planning community needs more innovative solutions to address the aging roadway infrastructure through preventive roadway maintenance. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and local governments have found that for every dollar spent on repairs early in the life of a road segment, they can save six to ten dollars in future rebuilding costs. However, current materials and technologies cannot keep up with the rate of degradation of the road system.

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