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How is graphene helping save carbon on UK’s roads?

At the heart of the Thermal Road Repairs system is technology that makes pothole and defect repairs permanent; that is, they will last as long as the road surface surrounding them. So, as well as the carbon saved in the process itself, there will be future carbon savings too due to a reduction in maintenance interventions.

Increasing the gaps between resurfacing is the best way to save carbon and the environment. Which is why we were interested to find out how wonder-material graphene is being used to make roads last longer.

Discovered by researchers at the University of Manchester in 2004, graphene is a carbon sheet, one-atom thick that is extracted from graphite. Though it is super light, it is 200 times stronger than steel. Its applications seem to be almost endless: biomedicine, electronics, composites, energy. And now, roads.

Additive specialist Iterchemica and graphene manufacturer Directa Plus have developed a new additive designed to make road surfaces last longer. Called Gipave, the additive contains waste plastic and an active compound created by Iterchimica as well as graphite nano platelets. The waste plastics are hard plastics which cannot usually be recycled, and hence usually end up in waste-to-energy plants, specially selected because of the chain of polymers they contain.

The idea behind Gipave is that it makes road pavements stronger, without making them more susceptible to cracking. Usually there’s a balance between a road being stiff enough to resist rutting, but not so stiff that its more likely to crack.

The first trial of Gipave took place in Rome in 2018. There are now over 10 trial sections, including three in the UK in Curbridge, Dartford and Lichfield. Iterchimica says that its research indicates that roads laid with Gipave could last 2.5 times longer than if they had been paved with standard asphalt, using a typical cross section pavement design.

Because Gipave uses polymers extracted from waste plastic, rather than SBS (Styrene-Butadiene-Styrene) its carbon footprint is 92% lower according to calculations carried out for Iterchimica by the University of Milan-Biocca. The university also calculated that a road laid with Gipave would produce 70% less carbon emissions over its lifetime compared to conventional asphalt; asphalt modified with SBS would produce 30% less emissions than a standard one.

Of course, those calculations rely on the road surfaces having that much longer life. No doubt the councils in Oxfordshire, Kent and Staffordshire will be interested to find out whether their Gipave roads are as durable as we hope they are.

Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. We invest significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve our existing ones.

High output. Low emission. Permanent solution.


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