Graphene could extend the life of road surfaces

10 September 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘Laboratory trials have been a success and the on-site trials in Northumberland will be a world first use of graphene in road production...’

A stretch of road in the UK is about to become the first in the world to be resurfaced with material containing graphene. National Highways will use this trial to see if the material prolongs the lifespan of the road. If successful, the new material could reduce the frequency of road works.

Development of the new surfacing material has been carried out by National Highways in partnership with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) at the University of Manchester and Pavement Testing Services. Researchers investigated whether graphene could be mixed with bitumen when resurfacing roads as well being mixed with asphalt, which is used on the top surface of the road. It is hoped that asphalt mixed with graphene will be stronger and less likely to be affected by sunlight, which makes asphalt brittle and leads to cracks in the road surface.

Other areas of research in the application of graphene on roads include the addition of a graphene coating to the 7500 miles of steel safety barriers on UK roads to see if it will increase their lifespan, as well as investigating if graphene in road markings will allow them to last longer. Most road markings have to be replaced every two to four years. However, when applying the new markings the road surface can be subject to damage. GEIC is investigating if graphene will allow the white markings to the same lifespan as the road surface.

Commenting, National Highways Asset Needs Manager Graeme Watt said; ‘Laboratory trials have been a success, and the on-site trials in Northumberland will be a world first use of graphene in road production, which enforces our commitment to innovation and helps push the industry towards more carbon friendly maintenance with longer-lasting solutions which we all benefit from.’

Work on resurfacing a stretch of road on the A1 in Northumberland, will start during the middle of September and be completed early November 2021. National Highways will conduct the trials with GEIC and Pavement Testing Services.

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