How many times have you changed routes due to roadworks? A materials scientist at Delft University in The Netherlands, Erik Schlangen has developed an asphalt mixture that would enable asphalt roads and pavements to fix themselves – without the trouble of blocking routes.
Schlangen mixed small steel fibres in his self-healing asphalt mixture, which makes the asphalt a good conductor of heat. When cracks start appearing on self-healing asphalt roads, an induction machine is passed over the cracks, adding heat and warming up the asphalt and steel fibers. Consequently, the small cracks close on their own. A similar effect is created with the help of the sunshine, but not with the same efficiency. While the induction machine is needed to complete the healing process, the asphalt mixture makes the process less troublesome to daily commuters.
Self-healing asphalt has been tested on 12 different roads in The Netherlands, one of which has been operating since 2010. Schlangen notes that a normal asphalt road lives for about seven to 10 years before it starts to crack. While it is estimated to cost 25% more than normal asphalt, the self-healing asphalt could double the life of the road, and one estimate suggests it could save The Netherlands around $99 million (EUR 90 million) a year if all roads are made out of self-healing asphalt.
In 2016, another professor at Delft University developed a cement mixture that would enable buildings and walls to self-heal. Microbiologist Hendrik Jonkers, a finalist in the 10th annual European Inventor Awards, argued that limestone-producing bacteria that can be activated by rainwater is the secret to creating this supernatural concrete. Bacteria, such as Bacillus pseudofirmus or Sporosarcina pasteurii, which can be found in lakes with high alkalinity, is added to the concrete mix and becomes active when a concrete crack comes in touch with water. The Dutch scientist went on and founded Basilisk company for self-healing concrete. Between 2014 and 2016, the company applied its bio-inspired concrete to a garage.