A new trial which could revolutionise the way public highways are resurfaced has begun in Essex.
Those behind the project hope the addition of a new strengthening compound to traditional surfacing material could increase the lifespan of roads by up to double, greatly reducing future maintenance – and the associated traffic delays – as well as halving the carbon footprint associated with such work.
The trial is being undertaken by Ringway Jacobs and Essex County Council in Chelmsford.
Ringway Jacobs supplies highway services to Essex and has brought in the international expertise of its shareholding companies Eurovia UK, in particular its specialist asset management consultancy Jean Lefebvre UK (JLUK), and partners, to undertake the trial.
Key to the innovation is a technology called Gipave, developed by the Italian company Iterchimica.
It consists in adding an advanced product to a traditional surfacing material, in this case, for the first time in UK, a hot rolled asphalt (HRA).
JLUK has been fully testing and developing the materials used in the trial in the UK, which have been produced locally, through one of Eurovia’s East London asphalt manufacturing facilities.
Gipave contains graphene – which is 200 times stronger than steel yet extremely flexible – making the asphalt far less susceptible both to hardening and cracking in cold temperatures and softening in warm temperatures. It also increases the elasticity and strength to reduce the wear, particularly under high loading.
Gipave further reduces environmental impacts and carbon emissions (up to 70%) as it contains a specific type of selected hard plastic, which is usually considered non-reusable, avoiding less sustainable disposal methods (landfills, etc.).
Cllr Lee Scott, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways Maintenance and Sustainable Transport, said: “This is potentially a game changer in road and footway surfacing as increasing the expected life of the surface would drastically reduce maintenance costs and half the carbon footprint typically associated with such surfacing.
“Less maintenance also means less disruption for road users, so this trial has really positive potential for the travelling public, for council taxpayers and for all those who want to see the council provide its services in the most sustainable way possible.
“We look forward to seeing what the results of trial and what potential benefits the graphene solution might bring to the county – and indeed the rest of the UK.”
Ringway Jacobs Managing Director Phil Horton said: “As a business we believe innovation is key to offering the highest quality and best value services to our clients.
“Our company structure enables us to call on the expertise of industry leaders across the world and we are delighted to be bringing that know-how to Essex in a project that could save time and money while at the same time reducing the carbon footprint associated with resurfacing work.”
Eurovia Managing Director, Paul Goosey, added: “We are continuously striving to improve the sustainability of our highway products and services. Working with JULK and Iterchimica, to bring Gipave to the UK, we can offer clients a surfacing solution, which, in the right location and network, will reduce environmental ‘whole life’ impact and improve resilience of the network.”
Iterchimica Gipave Product Manager, Lorenzo Sangalli, added: “The UK is a country at the forefront in finding solutions to reduce CO2 emissions (Warm Mix Asphalts are increasingly used) and in the development of new technologies; the isolation of graphene is an example. Iterchimica, whose mission to build sustainable asphalt pavements and reduce environmental impacts has remained the same for over 50 years, has found fertile ground in the UK for its green technology Gipave.”