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Could graphene solve Britain's pothole problem?

9 Jul 2019

Highways England has teamed up with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) in Manchester in the hope that its revolutionary material could help to solve the nation's problem with potholes.

The road network in this country is experiencing significant deterioration of its surfaces, which is resulting in damage to vehicles and a high level of insurance claims, not to mention aggravation for motorists.

Now, experts are looking into whether adding graphene to maintenance and renewals operations could extend the life of road surfaces and help the highways system to perform at an 'industry-changing level'.

If this is found to be the case, the improvements made could result in stronger, longer-lasting roads, meaning there would be less need for roadworks and journeys would be altogether nicer.

There may even be the potential to drive the development of a low-carbon and digital road network, experts believe.

Graphene was first isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004. It is the world's first two-dimensional material and is stronger than steel, more conductive than copper and a million times thinner than a human hair.

Innovation director at Highways England Paul Doney said: "We are really excited about the opportunity to explore leading-edge materials and what this might lead to for our road network. By building a collaboration with our operations teams who understand the challenges, we are looking to deliver improved safety and performance of our roads."

The organisation may be hoping the benefits of graphene can be exploited sooner rather than later, as the Commons Transport Select Committee recently declared the condition of local roads in England a 'national scandal'.

Meanwhile, the Local Government Association found routine road maintenance budgets have fallen from £1.1 billion in 2009-10 to just £701 million in 2017-18 due to austerity measures.

It estimated this reduction could have covered the cost of repairing 7.8 million potholes.