Posting in Design
Asphalt is asphalt, right? Not so. And researchers at a California university are searching for the best formulations to build longer lasting, quieter and more fuel-efficient roadways.
As lawmakers duke it out in Washington, D.C., over transportation spending, it's business as usual on roads across the nation. That is to say, they're packed with pothole-producing heavy duty trucks and cars that constantly erode pavement...adding to long lists of fix-it projects amid dwindling road budgets.
But at the Pavement Research Center at the University of California, Davis, work is underway to create longer lasting, quieter roadways that can also help improve vehicular fuel efficiency, reports Quest, a science and environment news program from Northern California's KQED public broadcasting.
Different types of asphalt are tested and abused as part of the center's work. A large structure that resembles a stationary rail car is used to simulate the effect of vehicles -- specifically heavy trucks -- as they drive over asphalt, over and over (and over) again. In fact, the center's John Harvey says that researchers there don't even consider the impact cars will have on pavement, as trucks are the real culprit. The simulator illuminates the structural weakness -- cracks, for example -- that a asphalt sample will form after upwards of 20,000 passes of a weighted truck tire.
The longer a roadway lasts and resists potholes, the further each transportation dollar can be stretched.
Aside from building more strength into asphalt, the researchers are also devising means of absorbing more tire noise. Harvey told KQED: "We’re designing the pavement so the surface is porous and the air can be squeezed out from the tire and actually squeezed down into the pavement and that drops the noise considerably."
Another consideration is the smoothness of the asphalt. The smoother a road is, the less energy a vehicle exerts as its wheels pass over the surface. In other words, smooth roads lead to lower fuel consumption.
Image: Flickr / Alan Stanton
Feb 13, 2012
Better pavement will lead to the great driving and minimize the road accidents cases. Switching to the green pavement which being eco friendly is best for the road and environment too. http://www.greenproindia.com/pavingtiles.php
I remember over 20 years ago a magazine (I think Popular Science) ran an article about a special additive being used in Europe that extended the life of an asphalt road more than 10 years, but the U.S. wouldn't go to it because of the additional cost, even though it would save money in the long run. Now why do we think the U.S. position will change now?
As one of the numerous heavy truck drivers I have wondered why a more lasting road surface hasn't been developed. Have also wondered why USA insists on keeping heavy trucks which are more likely to be traveling through in the lanes closer for entering and exiting highways. Why not keep trucks to the left and out of the way? My concern for a smoother, more fuel efficient road is that of friction and braking distance. Dangerous now with no enforcement of aggressive driving laws and no public awareness of the dangers of the average passenger cars driving habits. I don't really blame the drivers sinces our government does not produce public safety messages to inform drivers to remember what we were taught in Driver's Ed. or enforce safe road sharing through policing.
I had always wondered if anyone was doing any research for "road technology". I remember reading an article (many moons ago) where they were experimenting with a road surface that would allow water to seep through (much like weed block does in a garden). This was in response to the "over paving" going on in America (parking lots etc.) and the inability of storm drains to handle severe storms. Would be nice to hear if anything came of that as I would rather have that than quieter roads..no ice would form..you would not have the warnings about street flooding every time a severe storm came along...and it would serve well in all areas of the country.
A smooth road is more slippery when wet unless there is good drainage. Grooving and especially cross-cutting will make the pavement noisier. That research sounds good for California and the Southwest but not for the rest of us.
In general concrete roads last longer, cost less when averaged over the longer life and were the state of things until the road consturction industry found asphalt. They were quick to learn they could assure follow-up road work by selling municipalities on how quickly and cost effective it was to install asphalt. Ignore the falling apart quickly thing, it is such a deal! Bottom line = Why sell a product once every 30 years at $100 when you can sell a cheaper and lower quality product every 5 years at $40? It is simple math for the politically connected.