UK Trials Anti-Aging Cream for Roads

FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2021

Not quite the anti-aging cream your grandma might use, United Kingdom-based Highways England Company has announced at the beginning of the week that it would be trialing Total UK’s new polymer-modified bitumen mix on its roadways.

Highways England Chief Highways Engineer Mike Wilson said, “We’re always looking for innovative ways to help us keep England’s motorways and major A-roads in good condition. The ultimate priority for us is safety so we invest in new technology and materials to keep those using the roads safe. Longer lasting roads means fewer roadworks, less disruption for motorists and a more sustainable network for everyone.”

According to Total UK, the bitumen binder, Total Styrelf Long Life, aims to increase the lifespan of roads and reduce the need for roadwork interventions, much like an anti-aging cream from roads. The company is reported to have several Styrelf polymer-modified binder (PMB) bitumen mixes, including Total Styrelf GP for racetracks and Total Styrelf Extreme for heavily trafficked roads.

“At Total UK our key focus is Sustainability through Durability,” said Rick Ashton, Market Development Manager at Total UK. “These long-life binders will contribute to achieving clients’ decarbonization goals by reducing roadworks, saving manufacturing, transport and installation energy, and the associated emissions. This trial paves the way for enhanced highways asset management and predictive deterioration modelling for Highways England.”

For the long-term study, the Total Styrelf Long Life mixture will be applied to a section of dual carriageway in Northamptonshire, England, where it could stay for up to 15 years. Currently, the country’s motorways and major A-roads are expected to be resurfaced every 10-12 years due to UV exposure and oxidation which causes the roadway surface to deteriorate and crack.

However, Total UK’s latest bitumen binder has revealed in studies that it has the capability to protect roadways more successfully, lasting longer before the need for intervention. Total UK attributes the mixture’s resistance to the elements in its ability to oxidize more slowly. In turn, this slows down the aging process and keeps the road surface flexible for a longer period of time.

“Consequently, the binder’s initial performance characteristics, such as resistance to fatigue, fretting, and thermal cracking are retained for longer,” wrote Total UK. “More durable road surfaces that require fewer repairs lead to lower carbon emissions caused by maintenance work, less money needing to be spent on maintenance and less disruption for road users.”

Through a partnership with Highways England and Tarmac, Total UK resurface a busy section of the A43 near Silverstone with the new mix. Three sections of the road have already been resurfaced, the first with a standard bitumen, the second with Total Styrelf Extreme 100 and the third with Total Styrelf Long Life.

Throughout the possibly 15-year-long trial, Total UK’s team will take samples from each section of the carriageway at regular intervals to measure the ageing performance and key characteristics of the bitumen, and to understand the degradation caused by oxidation and UV exposure.

Previously, the material was tested in laboratories and on sections of road in Holland and Germany, however, this will be the first time the mixture will be employed on a roadway with such high traffic levels.

“What we have in this case is essentially an anti-ageing cream for roads – just as these products are designed to reduce and prevent the signs of fine lines and overall ageing of the skin, the new bitumen being trialed on the A43 will protect the road surface,” said Tarmac Technical Director Brian Kent.

“It not only has the potential to offer improved value for money to the public purse, but it also contains properties to increase the overall lifespan of roads. Through preventing cracks to the surface of the road caused by elements such as air and water, the longer life bitumen has the ability to reduce disruption, deliver long-term carbon savings and importantly help network operators to better manage their assets.”

Total UK estimates that resurfacing a mile of single-lane carriageway with asphalt—not including transport to site—can produce up to 26.5 tons of CO2. If roads lasted longer, so that two resurfacing interventions could be avoided, the reduction in asphalt production alone could save the equivalent of the CO2 produced by an average car if it was driven for more than 270,000 miles.


Tagged categories: Asphaltic/bituminous; EU; Europe; Polymers; Program/Project Management; Quality Control; Research and development; Roads/Highways; Surface profile; Transportation

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