Washington, June 16 : A scientist is adapting Indian and African road techniques to improve asphalt in various ways by developing cold mixtures that blend polymers or plastics with crude oil-derived asphalt.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), the scientist in question is Dr. Hussain Bahia, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.
Asphalt, which is used to pave over 90 percent of American roads, is processed in Western countries through a process requiring the tar-like substance to be heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, an energy-intensive procedure that also produces carbon emissions.
In less wealthy parts of the world, though, a "cold mix" approach has long been used.
In these countries, the asphalt isn't heated, but is sheared into fine particles and mixed with water and surfactants so it can be spread across a road's surface until it hardens.
Now, Dr. Bahia intends to adapt these African and Indian techniques, developed by road-builders who couldn't afford to heat asphalt to make it pliable, for use in the US.
Under the auspices of the Asphalt Research Consortium, he has established a Modified Asphalt Research Center with the goal of improving asphalt in various ways by developing cold mixtures that blend polymers or plastics with crude oil-derived asphalt.
A prerequisite to such innovation, though - and to the acceptance of cold-mix asphalt here, is the development of solid laboratory tests to evaluate each new mixture's safety and durability.
Bahia's team is at work now developing the tests and standards that will allow American engineers and chemists to weigh greener asphalt against conventional mixes.