Roads are an integral part of our everyday life. From commute to work to a morning run, the quality of roads can’t be underestimated.
Road construction innovations focus on safety and durability. Every year, a new technology tries to make its way to the market.
As vehicle manufacturers are working hard to make their products safer, road construction companies ensure comfort, stability, and mobility. Let’s take a look at the latest technological breakthroughs in the road construction sector.
1. De-Icing Road Surfaces
Ice is one of the worst enemies drivers face on the roads. About 5,000 people are killed and almost half a million injured in weather-related road crashes each year. That’s why battling weather conditions is on the agenda for many scientists today.
- Salt Releasing Pavement
A team of researchers from Koc University in Turkey developed a special road material that can delay ice formation on roads. A mix of potassium formate and styrene-butadiene-styrene polymer is added to asphalt to delay ice formation. Such an additive doesn’t affect the durability of the surface.
In the lab, the de-icing effect for the roads lasted for two months. However, it has the potential to work for years. As vehicles drive over the pavement, causing wear and tear, the salt continues being released gradually.
- Hydronic Heating Pavement
Another way to de-ice roads is to use hydronic heating pavement (HHP). The method involves embedding pipes in the roads. Fluid passes through the pipe as a thermal energy carrier. During the warm months, the energy is harvested and stored to be used in the winter.
Unlike the previous method, HHP can last for many years without using salt, which can be damaging the vehicles.
2. Environmentally-Friendly Pavement
Both asphalt and concrete aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. For example, asphalt is partially made of petroleum. Concrete requires a formidable amount of energy to apply to the roadway, thus depleting nature’s resources.
Industry players are currently working hard toward resource conservation. According to experts at ABC Paving, many companies have learned how to reuse existing asphalt and concrete by mixing it with new materials. This reduces the depletion of the resources.
The environmentally-friendly pavement is already a reality for secondary roads. Organic resin-based road pavement could be replacing asphalt and concrete in the nearest future.
3. Dynamic Paint
Roads could become extremely dangerous if the driver misses the moment they start being slippery. When it’s dark out, black ice is almost impossible to notice. That’s where dynamic paint comes in.
The photoluminescent powder is used to create road markings. It collects energy from the sun during the day and illuminates the road during the night. To go even further, the special paint can sense the temperature drop and show it to the driver by glowing snowflakes.
This paint is already being actively used in the Netherlands. It can charge sufficiently during cloudy days to glow for up to 10 hours at night.
4. Wind-Powered Lights
Environmental friendliness for road construction is highly important since the process uses up plenty of energy. One of the ways to save energy is wind-powered lights. The light uses the moving air as the cars pass by it with high speed. This energy is later recycled for lighting roads. This is an excellent solution for regions that suffer from the lack of wind and can’t use it to power lights.
Many highway lights are already wind or solar-powered. Another innovation uses special sensors to turn the lights on when the vehicle approaches and off when it leaves. It could save plenty of energy on not-so-busy roads.
5. Electrical Vehicle Charging Roads
Electrical cars are saving our planet every day. However, charging them could be tricky. It takes time while not being available everywhere you go. The first electrified road that can recharge electric vehicles’ batteries opened in Stockholm in 2018.
If such roads become a reality in other cities, the cost of batteries will go down, thus making electric cars more affordable to the average driver.
Energy is transferred from the road to the vehicle via a moving arm, which is attached to the car’s bottom. The design may remind you of electric trolleys. But as the vehicle leaves the special road, the arm automatically disconnects without any need to slow down.
6. Portable Asphalt Plants
Bringing asphalt to the road to be paved or re-paved used to require trucks. They would arrive one at a time to spread the asphalt. This slowed down the pavement process substantially, thus producing traffic jams.
Today, paving can be done by using portable asphalt plants. They can be moved along the road while producing asphalt. These plants eliminate the need for numerous trucks and drivers, thus speeding up the process and supporting the environment.
Even though you would still need to transport raw materials to the site, the cost is greatly reduced.
7. Laser Road Surveying
To keep roads durable and safe, it’s vital to survey the pavement regularly. In the past, to perform a survey, the piece of the road would need to be closed off, thus causing traffic.
Today, laser-surveying equipment is mounted on a moving vehicle. It makes measurements and takes a sample “on the go”. The vehicle can proceed at traffic speed without causing any jams.
8. 3-D Bridge Printing
Creating roads and bridges using 3-D printers seems like something out of a sci-fi novel. Today, it’s a reality. In 2017, two 3-D printed bridges were installed. One was a pedestrian bridge in Madrid. The other – a cyclist bridge in the Netherlands.
When it comes to bridges, 3-D printing is highly effective. The printer only uses the necessary amount of cement, thus eliminating materials’ waste. Meanwhile, it can create any shape you can come up with. The pedestrian Gaudi-inspired bridge in Madrid is a perfect demonstration of that ability.