Researcher using nanoclays to build better asphalt

May 04, 2012 By Marcia Goodrich
Ruts like these pose a serious threat to motorists. Zhanping You and his team have discovered that adding nanoclay to the asphalt pavement mix may help roads resist rutting.

Long before freeways and parking lots, a naturally occurring asphalt first appeared on roads in about 600 B.C. You can still see patches of it in the ancient city of Babylon.

Under the onslaught of 21st century traffic, modern isn’t likely to hold up for anywhere near 2,700 years. But at Michigan Technological University, Zhanping You is paving the way for brand-new asphalt blends to fight off cracks, rutting and potholes.

His work has drawn so much attention that one of his papers made SciVerse ScienceDirect’s Top 25 Hottest Articles of 2011 for the journal Construction and Building Materials.

“Nanoclay-Modified Asphalt Materials: Preparation and Characterization” reviews recent literature on asphalt that has been doctored with nanomaterials. It also presents new discoveries from You’s team suggesting that adding nanoclays to asphalt materials could make for safer, longer-lasting roadways.

“Asphalt is now made from petroleum, so it’s very expensive,” said You, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “As a result, a lot of people are looking at ways to make it more durable.”

Heat, cold and stress in the form of traffic take their toll on asphalt pavement, made from a mix of asphalt and aggregates like gravel. That leads to cracks, potholes and a process called rutting. Ruts are most likely to form on busy roads, sections with slow traffic, and areas with stop signs and stoplights, where the rubber hits the road hard thousands of times a day.

“Rutting can be very dangerous, especially in snow and ice,” You said. “If we could use advanced materials to reduce rutting, that would be very beneficial to the public.”

You’s team tested two types of nanoclays, adding 2–4 percent by weight to the asphalt. That’s a smidgeon--less than half of a percent of the total weight of the asphalt pavement itself. But it made a big difference.

“It improved the viscosity significantly,” You said. “That means it will provide better stiffness, which means that it won’t deform as much in hot weather or under heavy traffic.”

They don’t yet know if nanoclay can help asphalt resist cracking in cold weather or under heavy loads, since their testing isn’t completed. “But it is always our goal to develop new asphalt mixtures with those qualities,” You said.

His lab is also testing how other nanomaterials, including nano-silica and nano-composites, will affect asphalt durability.

Explore further: Researchers use 3D printers to create custom medical implants

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User comments : 29

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Ryan1981
not rated yet May 04, 2012
I recall not too long ago they tested a new asphalt material in The Netherlands called ZOAB (Literally translated: Very Open Asphalt Concrete) And though in rainy conditions it improved road characteristics, they didn't account for its behaviour in wet freezing conditions. It was very slippery when the road froze up! Just thought I'd mention it in case they didn't think of testing this property :P
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2012
And you think they will read the articel on their own stuff on physorg?

Better email them directly.

ZOAB is also a porous asphalt - the addition of nanoclays is something different.
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2012
Why not use the splash screens behind (and in front of) the tires to collect bitumen, rubber and gravel particles. It might even improve the areodynamics ? Let them wrap around the tires and almost reaching to the road surface.

Then there could be some automatic cleansing device at gas-stations. Road repairers might then collect "the sludge" and spread it out again. Such a collection might also take down the particle pollution of the air and ground along roads.

Maybe a lower need for asphalt import as well ??

I don't know the nitty-gritty physics of these particles. Maybe they are "too nano" to be collected in such a "mechanistic" way ?

Is there a need to create some air suction into the "splash screens" ??

Would be interesting to hear your views.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2012
Would be interesting to hear your views.

That sounds...mad.

I don't even know where to begin to explain how this is unworkable, unfeasible, economically crazy, destructive on any and everything on your car, ...
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2012
Oh, thank you for your comment ! Doesn't seem to be a need for explaining something that is not working ;)
fmfbrestel
not rated yet May 04, 2012
@localcooling

Asphalt deforms, it doesn't grind away (at least not in normal wear and tear) so the very premise of your suggestion is false. Asphalt is essentially a very slowly flowing liquid. The flow increases in speed when heavy cars and trucks press down on it, especially in hot conditions.

pot holes emerge primarily due to freezing conditions. Small cracks fill with water, which expands as it freezes, and breaks up the asphalt.

None of those problems would be helped even a little by collecting the grime on tire flaps.
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2012
I read somewhere, there were considerable amounts of road/rubber material ending up in riverbeds, as well as particles in the air, that if you added everything, the particle mass was quite substantial.

Where are these air particles and deposits on the ground, riverbeds, coming from ??

The particles shooting away, being worst (and most) in the winter, when studded/dubbed tires are used in the non-Anglo country where I live.

You can actually see the rims of some goey asphalt/rubber stuff on the side of the car, behind the front driving wheels, after a winter.
fmfbrestel
not rated yet May 04, 2012
Studded tires are a whole 'nother ball game, and they will chew up a road. But still, this just adds up to winter is hell on asphalt. tire studs, gravel spread on the road for traction, snowplows grinding against the pavement. People using studded tires off season (at least where i live) can be pulled over and ticketed.

The summer problems are completely different. The heat softens the asphalt (which is precisely the problem being addressed by this study) and it deforms under pressure.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2012
Oh, thank you for your comment ! Doesn't seem to be a need for explaining something that is not working

OK - I thought it was obvious, but it obviously isn't.

What you are advocating are 'sticky wheels'. Now, even the most retarded person will see that having sticky wheels (or lugging around extra weight from the accumulated sludge) is not good for fuel efficiency.

then you want to 'redistribute this sludge to the highways'. How is that different from closing the roads for repairs? Or are magical highway fairies going to do this...exactly when?

Do I really need to go on?

The entire POINT of this article is to make asphalt that doesn't need repairs (or at least not nearly as often).

Basically as soon as someone says "we need some (unspecified) device to..." you know they haven't thought this through at all.
TrinityComplex
not rated yet May 04, 2012
Antialias, localcooling wasn't talking about sticky wheels. Stuff gets flung up into a car's wheel wells all the time from the road. THAT is where Local was saying the material should stick. The idea was that the material could be recycled by returning it to those who repair the roads, reducing the need for new materials. It may not be efficient or practical, but neither are many ideas that are eventually reformed into working ideas.

When you shoot down an idea so harshly it doesn't even have the chance to evolve into either better understanding, or, ideally, something that would work.

Freezing is a big issue for roads. There's a whole bunch of research that has gone into how to make them last longer, but I've never seen anything that focused primarily on the freezing aspect, trying to make it cause less/no damage to the road material.
Sean_W
3 / 5 (2) May 04, 2012
We already have areas (in Canada at least) where best practices for road construction are not used because they cost a little more up front and the money they save in the long run means it is harder for politicians to create shovel-ready jobs near election time and remind everyone their economy depends on the government for make-work projects. They will need to solve that problem before they can reinvent the roads. But new road technology is worth developing, even if it will be slowly adopted and often resisted by vested interests.
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2012
I'm not often writing here, and English is not my native language, so I might not express myself in a way that you understand Antialias, you might also have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to my nickname ? You shouldn't construe that I'm a oil loving anti-global-warming proponent. Resorting to the retard-strawman-argument does portray you somewhat antialiased to society.

That said, TrinityComplex seems to understand what I mean, and my point was more about how the use of asphalt maybe could be lowered by recycling, and additionally take down the particle pollution of the air, particles that in some way or another, come from roads and tires.

I don't know how retarded or accelerated you are Antialias, but I do think that the fuel consumption for carrying some asphalt/rubber grime around, in between going to a gas-station, is far less than transporting the same amount half way over the globe to a country that doesn't have oil or tar sand. Anyway, thank you for constructive input.
aironeous
not rated yet May 05, 2012
Great, mix this stuff in with grancrete formula they develop for use on Mars when spraying the inside of their tunnels they dig in the future.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2012
The idea was that the material could be recycled by returning it to those who repair the roads

Which is completely foolish. Scraping this off with a device (using what? Mechanical scrapers that use energy? Some sort of solvent that needs to be extracted again (and have you any idea what kinds of solvents are needed to get asphalt runny again?). Then collection and transportation..is somehow going to be cheaper than...any other way of making roads, including paving them with gold?

Sorry, but when I see such an idea I call it what it is: Dumb.

When you shoot down an idea so harshly it doesn't even have the chance to evolve into either better understanding, or, ideally, something that would work.

Having ideas is great. But brainfarts are not the same as ideas. Before you go and suggest something, at least have the decency to think about it for a 10 seconds. If you find 10 obvious problems within that time: don't post it.
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2012
Anti, it IS an idea! Out of interest, I have read some of your posts. You NEVER seem to have ideas. You have no idea. Nothing wrong. That is your persona, your brain. You can continue to come with non-researched/thoughtless "ideas" how it will NOT work (physically, energy saving- or raw material savingwise). I can think and come with a counterclaim, that blasts your "anti-idea". Then you can go on to next step, and say the "mechanical" energy to scrape it off is greater than scrape it off from the tar sand ground, and ship it half way across the globe ... etc.

I can come with an idea that you don't need to scrape it off, maybe not flush it off, maybe use a totally different principle. You don't come up with such a new idea, maybe because you don't have a brain geared towards recombining information and create a new idea ?? Fair enough, but that will not help me, and your profession is not even bitumen processing or even material scientist with focus on the matters at hand, I guess ??
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
maybe because you don't have a brain geared towards recombining information and create a new idea ??

Well, I published my ideas (and in the end got a PhD for it). These were workable ideas. They needed to prove themselves before being accepted. I have worked as a scientist and have interacted with many, many scientists in various fields (though mostly medicine, biology, computer science and material sciences). Those interactions have given me some experience in distinguishing ideas from brainfarts.

I'll give you another hint why your 'idea' is a brainfart:
There is all kinds of stuff on the road that is not part of the asphalt:
- dust
- rubber
- fuel residue
- anything any other truck dropped (or a driver threw out the window)
- ...

You'd pick all that up, too. This is not good road-building material. Seperating that out would be enormously costly.

This counterargument is so trivial that you should have seen it while typing your 'idea'. That's the hallmark of a brainfart.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
Then you'd need a one-size-fits-all way of collecting. From trucks, motorcycles, sports vehicles, compacts, SUVs, ... ain't gonna happen.

Either you mandate that everyone install a complex catch/removal system - good luck with that. Or you have an enormously complex system installed at a zillion locations around the country (world?) - good luck with that, too. Or you'd do it in a 'washer-type' removal which would be enormously wasteful (toxic). Asphalt is used BECAUSE it isn't easily soluble. Otherwise the roads would be washed away all the time.

You're like the kid that says: "let's put soar panels into orbit to supply the world with energy"...but doesn't bother to do the trivial calculations what this would cost or how much all the rocket launches would overkill the ecology.
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
Antialias, you are a funny belligerent guy. Maybe good, maybe not. I agree, one of the bigger problems are screw drivers sticking to the collector. There is currently no solution to that.

One-size-fits-all is not a big problem. We don't have a lot of toys like motorbikes, SUV:s, sports vehicles. So just a few models.

Removing the grime can be done with other methods than scraping or flushing. Use imagination if available. If not, drop the project.

I will have to read up on asphalt composition, treatment, etc, You will not help me. You are everything but an expert on asphalt, which is fair enough. I'm neither.

If workable, primarily from an energy and raw material perspective, a system could be phased in during long time. If oil/asphalt prices continue to rise, there might be a cost efficiency. If not cost efficient, but good for environment and saving raw materials, there is something called legislation. That's why we have governments and super-national organisations.
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
Some flow study of how the particles are spread, and of course all other pertinent facts, have to be gathered. Here a person like you, that seems to have knowledge in all areas of physics could be of help. To have a doctor title might help. I'm not sure how much it has helped me ?

An initial study is on it's way. Participants that have to resort to kid's vocabulary like retard, dumb and brainfart, can be sifted out, because I have never met a skilled scientist who needs to argue with anything but dry facts and models.

It was a pleasure to meet you. Good bye !
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
Removing the grime can be done with other methods than scraping or flushing. Use imagination if available. If not, drop the project.

Why don't you come right out and SAY what you have in mind as a system?
You don't, because you haven't thought (even) this far.

So just a few models.

Who is going to buy those models with the added system? (Hint: They'll be more expensive than others without it. And since there is no benefit to the owner - only drwaback - no one will buy it)

Some flow study of how the particles are spread, and of course all other pertinent facts, have to be gathered.

Vague, vague, vague. I'm calling BS on this, too. "Some people have to do some stuff to make my idea workable"...can you get any lamer than that?

Good bye

Come back when you have acquired a brain. Otherwise stay off a science site. It's WAY beyond you.
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
I (me) will have to read up on asphalt composition, treatment, etc, YOU will NOT help me. You are everything but an expert on asphalt, which is fair enough. I'm neither.


"Some people (me) have to do some stuff to make my idea workable"...can you get any lamer than that?


I have workED as a scientist and have INTERACTED with many, many scientists in various fields (though mostly medicine, biology, computer science and material sciences).


I read: ... WAS a scientist, ... interactED ...

I conclude: ... something happened ... something that lacked ? ... something that had to be acquired, but couldn't be acquired ???
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
Scientists don't retire. My grandfather didn't quit the Academy of Sciences or The Nobel Committee for Physics, when he reached some defined retirement age.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
I read: ... WAS a scientist, ... interactED ...

I had to start paying bills. Science is great, but it also doesn't get paid anything near enough to make a comfortable living.

That something which happened was: I got my PhD
(which I had finally decided to go for after working years in science without any aspirations to a degree).
After that I went out into the job market to get a job that would allow me to gather up some savings. Then we'll see.
There is still a yearning for going back into science - but currently I don't see how that will be economically possible in the near future.

My grandfather didn't quit the Academy of Sciences or The Nobel Committee for Physics, when he reached some defined retirement age.

Well then you definitely didn't take after him.
localcooling
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
You can be sure not. It is difficult to copy that, but the least I can do is trying to be humble. I just asked a question, and you jumped like an , well ... just to get some grip on your personality, I searched for some random posts, and it seems it has become your verve to jump on all and everyone posting on this, to me, rather new site. Why do you do that ? Anyway, I hope you can find your way back to the sciences. I have NO reason to believe you are NOT an excellent researcher, and I hope, should I post anymore here, that even if my question is naive (I do admit I'm not a bitumen guru ;) ), that we can communicate in a more relaxed way. Till then, take care !
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
Correct me if I'm wrong, but do some places use only asphalt for roads? Nothing added, just the bitumen?

I've never seen grooves as bad as that on the roads. What I have seen though is that what they do put on the roads is asphalt concrete, which is sand and gravel mixed with bitumen, and there the grade of the gravel has a great impact on the rutting behaviour. If you have coarse gravel mixed in which is then vibrated and compressed carefully, the pieces lock together and prevent flowing. Then the only way you can get grooves like that is if the road bed itself becomes fluid - if the road is laid down on loose earth.

packrat
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2012
Eikka That picture looks a lot like some roads I've seen. It's what happens when there is so much traffic on a road that when the local gov fixes it all they can really do is lay a clean layer of bitumen down on it and try to flatten it out. There are a number of roads around Philly that are like that (or used to be, I haven't been there in a few years now). You didn't even have to hold the steering wheel. It was like riding around in slot cars. It made it hard to turn off the main road in the wintertime when things iced up too.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet May 07, 2012
Why do you do that ?

Because this is a science site. And there are legitimately intelligent posters here. However, there are also AOLTeenFuckWits (not my expression, but I think it fits) who think they are the next Einstein posting brainfarts. If you post 'ideas' like you're on 4chan then go to 4chan. I'm sick and tired of people derailing perfectly interesting discussions with their 'great' idea that falls apart at the merest touch.

To reiterate: This is a science site. I would hope that people who post here have the capability to understand science (or at least basic feasibility of engineering tasks). If you don't have that - and you have amply demonstrated that you don't - then there's really no point for you to post, is there?
antialias_physorg
not rated yet May 07, 2012
I've never seen grooves as bad as that on the roads.

Such grooves can happen - especially in countries where it gets hot in the summer and where there is heavy traffic on the road. It only takes one really hot day for the top layer to become plastic enough to allow a constant chain of trucks (or one heavy load vehicle) to deform it. Roads are dark (absorb a lot of infrared). Heavily travelled roads additionally get heated up by the passing traffic.
Problem is that as soon as you get even minimal deformation all following traffic will tend to drive in the same rut. With stresses and strains due to hot/cold day/night cycles I can see where roads don't last very long.
TrinityComplex
not rated yet May 07, 2012
That picture could also just be a road under reconstruction. I see that all the time, as the roads seem to constantly be under repair. When the road is too wide or too busy to lay the entire thing at once they may close a couple lanes, lay a strip of asphalt, then paint that new section. They do the parallel portion at a later time(in my area the work is usually relegated to the middle of the night to reduce congestion).

As it was explained to me, the beginnings of paved roads was when they started laying down a gravel mixture, called mac. Tar was added to the mix shortly after, which is where you get tarmac. Modern asphalt is a more complicated mix that is designed to not flow as easily on hot days, but a bad mix, loose road bed, or thin road base can all cause deformations. Many roads could last years more if they simply dug the base a few inches deeper but, as a former administrator of a department of transportation candidly told me once, that would reduce their annual budget.