Nanotechnology and Asphalt

The Teeny Tiny Bits of Stuff that Make Pavement Better

nan·o·tech·nol·o·gy
ˌnanōˌtekˈnäləjē/
noun
1. the branch of technology that deals with dimensions and tolerances of less than 100 nanometers, especially the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules.

What does the egg that slides from your frying pan, the tennis ball you bounce to your pup, the sunscreen you slather on at the beach all have in common with the roads you drive on? You’ve guessed it—nanotechnology.

Put simply, nanotechnology is a process in which individual atoms and molecules are manipulated. To give you an idea of scale, there are approximately 25 million nanoparticles per inch. We’re talking TINY. How can something so small make such a big difference? Let’s take a look at the roles nanoparticles play in the world of asphalt:

Nanoclays

Asphalt is made up of finely ground materials, mixed with a binder which is heated and then applied over a compacted base. The use of nanoclays—super teeny tiny bits of layered mineral silicates—added to the binder mix can increase the viscosity of the material, making it easier to pour and spread. Once cooled, it has the effect of enhancing the compression and resilience qualities of the asphalt by making it less brittle, which means less cracking and crushing.

Nanoirons

The addition of nanoparticles into asphalt can also positively impact pavement maintenance. For instance, research is underway into self-healing roads using iron nanoparticles. In this application, iron nanoparticles are infused into the binder, and when the sun, ice, rain, and general wear and tear creates micro cracks, a specially designed machine emitting a magnetic field can be moved over the surface, heating the binder and healing the cracks. This technology could double the life span of roads and turn repairs into an hours long scenario, rather than weeks long.

Nanosilicas

The use of nanomaterials stretches far beyond just making paved surfaces more durable. They can be used to increase safety features, as well. Skid resistance is the highest factor in evaluating surface safety. The use of nanosilica (silicon dioxide nanoparticles) in a top coating can reduce skid factor and serve to cut down glare and road noise.

Nanophosphorous

Do you ever have trouble seeing the pavement markings on a dark and rainy night? By augmenting the line markings with phosphorus materials, visibility factors are increased and improved.

There’s a lot on the horizon with asphalt technology. At Black Diamond, you can be assured we are keeping up with the latest research and trends in our ongoing effort to giving you the best customer experience and longevity of surfaces possible.