Self-Repairing Roads

Nemkumar Bhantia, a professor in the Civil Engineering Department at University of British Columbia (UBC) in the Canada, has developed roads that are self-repairing and sustainable. Built used ultra high-strength concrete and special fibres developed at UBC, the first such road in Karnataka is not only cost-effective, but has greater longevity. The road is about 100mm thick, which makes it about 60% less thick than the standard Indian road. This makes the first-time cost of laying out such a road about 30% cheaper. It is important to keep in mind that when cement is used to create roads, it generates greenhouse gases, which negatively affect the environment. Unlike the typical concrete road, in which cement is a key component, Banthia’s self-repairing road uses 60 % fly-ash and only 40 % cement to prevent the emission of greenhouse gases. The fibres used have a hydrophilic nano-coating, which attract water in the event of rains. The water then becomes a key component in healing cracks. When a crack appears, this water gives hydration capability to the un-hydrated cement, and produces more silicates, which actually close the crack before they grow larger.

The professor is a graduate of IIT Delhi and has been living in Canada for 34 years. Nemkumar is also the Scientific Director of the Canada-Indian Research Centre of Excellence IC- IMPACTS, which is based in UBC. This Centre focuses on creating collaborative projects that “develop and implement community-based solutions to the most urgent needs of each nation.” In 2014, a team from this Centre, after interacting with panchayat members and other people from the community, elected Thondebavi for the trial run.

The new road was constructed in October 2015, but it had to be monitored during the Indian summer and monsoon to make sure it lasted despite weather fluctuations. After being functional and sturdy for more than a year, Nemkumar’s road project has been declared a success.

The road remains sturdy for another 15 years, which comes as a relief considering the average lifespan of roads in rural India is just two years. This is good news for many Indians who are tired of bumping along roads full of potholes. The project will also help ensure that remote areas in the country are more accessible. According to reports, since India requires around 2.4 million km of roads in rural areas, this project might be implemented in other states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh as well. Nemkumar said that there is a “great deal of interest” from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for a highway demonstration project.


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