For many years, infrastructure has remained a top issue, with the topic existing from Presidential debates to discussions among friends. The state of our roads is a something that affects everyone and is plainly visible; it only takes driving for a few minutes in any county in the United States to realize we are in desperate need for an update. The problem is heightened by the fact that the longer we wait to address the problem, the cost to fix our infrastructure only increases.
As temperature drop and the asphalt in our highways constricts, large cracks appear that can cause potholes and crevices. These can cause excess wear and accidents. Erik Schlangen of the Netherlands’ Delft University offers a solution: self-healing asphalt.
By reinforcing roads with steel fibers, a material that is very conductive to both heat and magnetic fields, the asphalt can expand to fill the cracks that appear during the constriction due to cold weather. This can be accomplished simply by absorbing heat from the sun, or through induced magnetic fields. The act of driving over said roads also contributes through the heat of the friction between the tires and the surface.
The Netherlands have already begun using this innovative material in 12 of their roads, with the longest trial beginning in 2010. The results have been promising so far, but sufficient time has not passed yet to truly gauge the effect.
Schlangen states that there is an added benefit of this steel reinforcement: “Putting steel fibers in the asphalt mean that you can send information to it, so it might be possible to charge electric cars on the road they’re driving on. This is early, but we are going to make some trials in front of traffic lights, where the idea is that you can charge your car a bit while waiting in traffic.”