graphene tarmac

Super-hardy graphene-infused tarmac rolled out at Rome’s main airport

Image credit: reuters

A special form of tarmac embedded with graphene that claims to have twice the lifespan of traditional asphalt is being trialled at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

It uses an additive called Gipave that combines graphene with a form of plastic that would normally be sent to waste-to-energy plants.

Airport runways in particular take a beating from extremely heavy aircraft such as Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s.

“We will test this technology for about one year... If it gives the results we hope for, it will be our interest to use it as extensively as possible,” Giorgio Gregori, head of infrastructure development at Fiumicino airport told the Reuters news agency.

The material was already trialled in a street in Oxfordshire last November in a bid to reduce potholes on a heavily used road.

Figures from the UK’s Department of Transport in 2018 show that poor road surfaces contributed to 517 accidents, including eight fatalities, and 348 serious injuries.

Ensuring planes have a smooth touchdown is also crucial due to the sheer weight of the aircraft and number of people onboard compared to passenger cars.

Fiumicino airport is Italy’s largest in terms of passenger traffic, with over 40 million passengers travelling through it.

The new technology was developed by Iterchimica, a company which makes products to enhance asphalt, graphene-maker Directa Plus, A2A’s recycling and waste management unit G.Eco and the University of Bicocca in Milan, which analysed its environmental impact.

Federica Giannattasio, Chief Executive of Iterchimica, told Reuters the asphalt had gone through three years of trials in their labs and had been laid on a traffic-intense road over a year ago.

Giannattasio added that “the advantages of this material... are multiple”, explaining that it uses a recycled plastic, it lasts longer and requires less maintenance.

The new tarmac will also give the runway greater resistance to vehicles and deformation.

Despite costing more than traditional tarmacs, the greater life-span and the lower maintenance make it less costly in the medium and long-term.

The runway material can be “100 per cent recycled, which can reduce the extraction of new materials from quarries and first-use bitumen,” Directa Plus said in a statement.

Scientists have been promising all sort of marvellous uses for graphene over the years but its commercialisation has proved largely elusive and the cost of producing the material has remained high.

In November researchers believed they may have found the key to making more use of the substance by purifying it to remove silicon

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