Is this the end of the pothole?

Pothole Stock

They are the modern-day highwaymen of the roads: abruptly stopping motorists in their tracks and fleecing them of their cash (in repair bills at least). Now, though, potholes could soon become consigned to the history books, thanks to new plans to develop self-healing concrete.
Scientists at the University of Bath, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge have been in the process of creating a new road surface, which utilises bacteria to fill-in gaps and cracks caused by poor weather.

The UK suffers particularly badly with potholes due to the type of Tarmac used on our roads. It is more porous than that used in hotter European countries, to better clear surface water during a downpour. However, in colder weather, this water that has seeped into the road surface can freeze and expand, causing damage to the asphalt.

The new blend of concrete, which is hoped could ensure smoother journeys and reduced vehicle damage for drivers across the country, is full of bacteria in hidden capsules. When these come into contact with water, they burst and produce limestone, which seals the gap before it can develop into a pothole.

The team behind the project believes that as well as removing the need for patchwork repairs, the technology could increase the life of road surfaces, and reduce overall costs by around 50 per cent.

Compensation claims received by local councils from drivers who've had their vehicles damaged by potholes would also be reduced, while the transport network would become safer for vulnerable road users such as cyclists.

The new surface could also have positive implications for the environment, due to less road replacement works. Currently, around seven per cent of global CO2 emissions are attributed to cement production, the Telegraph reports.

The groundbreaking (or should that be ground-making?) new material is just one of a number of innovations outlined by engineering company Arup.

Other ideas include replacing asphalt with solar panels, which could be used to charge electric cars and melt snow.

It also has plans to harvest energy from pedestrians by fitting pressure pads into the pavement, and place snowflake graphics on road surfaces using temperature sensitive paint, which would warn drivers when the temperature drops below a certain point.

Arup's global highways business leader Tony Marshall said: "While temperature-sensitive paint and solar surfaces may seem far-fetched, the innovations envisioned in this report are already being tested and piloted around the world," writes the Telegraph.

"They will change the way that we approach mobility and freight transport and will provide safer, more reliable and more environmentally friendly highway infrastructure for generations to come."
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