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Don’t Poo-Poo This Roadway of the Future

Friday, July 22, 2016

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Could the future of highways come from the humblest beginnings down on the farm?

A team of engineers at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (NCA&T) State University are getting their hands dirty testing pig manure as a possible replacement for petroleum in asphalt production.

Pig manure asphatl

Mixed with gravel, a bioadhesive made from pig manure oils is used to create a low-cost bioasphalt at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Pig waste is reportedly rich in oils that are similar to petroleum, but not suitable for converting to gasoline. They are finding a use in transportation, though.

Through funding from the National Science Foundation, civil engineer Ellie Fini and her team are developing a sticky binder from those oils that can be used as an ingredient to create bio-asphalt.

From Waste to Win-Win

Although seemingly unpleasant on the surface, the new bioadhesive has its benefits: At a cost of 56 cents per gallon to process, it is a much less expensive binder than petroleum, pig manure is plentiful worldwide, and it’s environmentally friendly.

And don’t worry about odor: the team is able to filter out the smelly components of the manure during processing.

Mixed with gravel, the bioasphalt product reportedly holds up to the team’s rigorous testing as well. They want to make sure it is as durable as existing asphalt products, so that when a car exerts downward pressure on it, it won’t sag, crack or break down. To prove this, their real-world test conditions include a simulation of truck traffic making 20,000 passes over it, Gizmag reported.

So far, the product withstands the pressures and even passes Department of Transportation specifications, the technology news source added.

As a whole, the process is described as a mutually beneficial situation for the construction industry and participating farmers. Not only is the alternative to petroleum-based asphalt a low-cost, durable, sustainable product, but the dry matter that remains after processing can be returned to the farmer to be used as fertilizer as well.

"We think it's scalable and cost-wise it's profitable," says Fini. "Our vision is to help the farmer and help the construction industry, both sides. We see a win-win approach in the solution."

Fini and her partners have filed patents on the technology and set up a dedicated company called Bio-Adhesive Alliance Inc.


Tagged categories: Adhesive; Asia Pacific; Asphalt; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Green chemistry; Infrastructure; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Roads/Highways; Sustainability; Transportation

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