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Nanotech hits the road

I feel like I should write a column about COVID-19, but more people are doing that, so let’s stick with the plan. 

As I mentioned last week, I wanted to write a series of articles about nanotechnology and the impact it can have around the world. 

One thing I can count on is voluminous feedback from all the people who dislike reading my column yet, continue to read it, which always confuses me, but thank you anyway.

If you do the research, it turns out that there is a lot of scientific data that supports the positive impact nanotechnology applications can make in society.

One area I first learned about several years ago was utilizing the unique properties of nanotechnology to fortify soils and build roads that are at least equivalent in strength to existing technologies, yet offer some superior qualities in terms of porosity, low maintenance and economics. 

While we analyze a road technology that offers a comparable product for less money and reduces maintenance, it should be enough to turn heads.

Indeed, in places like Africa it is.

This could be attributed to less availability of funding for infrastructure but it, like cell phones or solar power, can lead to a technology jump where more traditional forms of road construction, such as asphalt or concrete, are bypassed for a preferred alternative. 

The technology is quite simple. Nano particles of iron and sometimes zinc are produced with a particular type of faceting and coating to allow them to react with native soils in a particular manner.

The construction process is similar to asphalt in terms of building an appropriate and engineered sub-base for the road and then fortifying the top layer to provide a smooth, strong driving surface. 

In essence, once the soil has been lab tested, a recipe is created for the top layer. A certain amount of the sub-base is “ripped” and mixed with the nano particles before being returned on top of the sub-base and then compacted. 

Over 24 hours, the iron and zinc oxidizes and bonds with the soil particulates, creating a very strong layer. This layer, because of the size of the nano particles, is virtually impermeable to water, which is what degrades roads quickly.

It also exhibits the ability to transfer heavy load because of the large surface area to mass ratio of the nano particles.

Once cured, tests have shown little degradation of the substrate after years of commercial use and a tremendous simplicity to the repair process. 

But the bigger news is the vast reduction of material movement required because of the use of in-situ soils. Aside from reducing logistics, this has a tacit positive effect on the environment with a reduction in GHG emissions from the logistics. 

Combine that with the fact you are not heating asphalt, transporting it and letting it cool in an open atmosphere and emit VOCs that are harmful to anyone in the vicinity, and you have what I believe is a game changing model in the infrastructure world that can impact the environment positively. 

Studies have shown that by comparison to asphalt, GHG emissions would be reduced by approximately 80% if we replaced asphalt roads with nanotechnology roads. 

If you extrapolate that to the forecast number of roads to be built by 2050, it is equivalent to grounding all aircraft for nine years. 

I understand it is easy to say “so what,” but this week, with a vast reduction in vehicle traffic, manufacturing emissions around the world and less productivity, we are already seeing quick examples of cleaner oceans and air. 

What is unusual is that green technologies often cost more. This may be one example where not only can we benefit the environment, but we can save some money in the process.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for more than 40 years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business.

He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the U.K. in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]
 

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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