The New “Green” Asphalt
NCAT paves the way to eco-friendly roads
Asphalt may look black, but Randy West and his team at Auburn’s National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) are working to make it green.
They started by improving the process for evaluating new pavement technologies. It used to be that if road builders wanted to see how a new paving material would hold up, they just put it down and watched it—for years and years. NCAT didn’t think that was particularly efficient, so they teamed with the Alabama Department of Transportation to build a unique proving ground for new pavement technologies. On Auburn’s track, testing that used to take 15 years now takes three.
Then NCAT looked at the pavement laying process itself. To test a new technology called “warm-mix” asphalt, they built sections of track using additives and steam to improve the workability of asphalt mixtures at lower temperatures. Lower temperatures to produce the paving mixtures means less energy, fewer greenhouse emissions, and a better work environment for paving crews.
West and his research team are also working to shrink the carbon footprint and cost of building and maintaining roads by recycling more pavement and other construction materials into road mixtures. Although the industry has recycled for 30 years, NCAT is pushing to double the ratio of re-used material from 12 to 25 percent, maybe higher. At Auburn, we’ve already proven it can happen—several sections of the test track use 45 to 50 percent reclaimed materials.
So the next time you’re driving down a long stretch of road, remember it may look black, but it’s getting greener every day.