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Netherlands testing ‘self-healing’ roads that fix their own potholes

Small steel fibers in the roadway can be charged and heated to re-melt the bitumen binding the surface together, filling small cracks

pothole in road Shutterstock

Potholes are a scourge on modern cities. Annoying and dangerous to drivers as well as expensive to fix, potholes have lately prompted towns to return to gravel roads and even strengthen asphalt with recycled plastic. But a team of scientists in the Netherlands may have cracked the code on curing the pothole problem: self-healing asphalt.

Materials scientist Erik Schlangen at Delft University is experimenting with asphalt embedded with tiny steel fibers making it electrically conductive. Running an electrical current across the road (by way of an enormous magnet, so the process technically isn’t entirely self-healing) heats the fibers and surrounding asphalt, closing cracks and preventing potholes from forming.

The process has been tested on a dozen different public roads in the Netherlands over the past seven years, and all are in perfect condition. However, conventional asphalt typically lasts just as long and Schlangen is looking forward to seeing how the roads continue to perform over time. His research suggests that the self-healing asphalt would cost about 25 percent more than conventional asphalt but could last twice as long, potentially saving the Netherlands millions of Euros each year. Do check out the full story here.

Via: Inhabitat, The Verge