If you frequently drive on Britain’s roads, you’re probably no stranger to the daily pothole slalom. Costing drivers and councils millions of pounds each and every year, the pothole problem in the UK is such that a company called ‘Street Repairs’ even named Monday 16th January “National Pothole Day 2017” in order to raise awareness of it.
Despite potholes now having their own day and the campaign being a success, the RAC recently released statistics that mentioned pothole-related breakdowns, between October and December 2016, were up 24% when compared with the same period the year before. Thankfully, due to scientists from three British universities, this dreaded plague could soon come to an end.
Working within the University of Bath, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge, researchers have been experimenting with a ground-breaking new material that utilises a blend of concrete and special bacteria to achieve self-repairing capabilities. Scientists believe that this new material could not only vastly increase the life of concrete but ultimately remove all need for repair.
Aiming to stop cracks even becoming potholes in the first place, the material consists of concrete blended with a multitude of tiny capsules that contain bacteria. Should a crack form and allow water to seep in, the capsules burst and the bacteria produce limestone – subsequently sealing the gap before it has chance to worsen.
Looking to the future, utilising a special material such as this one would also reap an economic benefit due to constant pothole repair no longer being required. Favouring instead only periodic road repair in special circumstances, this reduction in work could see a monetary saving for the UK of up to 50% - a lot when you consider that potholes cost the UK almost £120million in 2016.
Consequently, this lowered demand for concrete will limit overall cement production. The effect of this being that a material like this would help to reduce the 7% contribution that cement manufacture currently adds to the world’s CO2 emissions.
The study into this material by British universities is just one of many that are taking place across the globe. In a recent interview with ‘The Verve’ Delft University’s Erik Schlangen spoke of how they aimed to combine a similar material with wireless charging systems to ensure that certain electric vehicles would be able to wirelessly charge their battery whilst stationary at traffic lights.
Of course, embarking on ambitious projects such as these would initially require a relatively large funding commitment, with old roads needing to be updated and the production of the new material ramped up considerably. That said, whilst there are currently no official figures released, it is projected that the long term gain would be a significant saving over the cost that currently plagues drivers and councils across the country.
What do you think of this new material? Do you think that replacing the UK’s roads with self-repairing ones is the correct method to resolve the current pothole issue? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.