Paving the way for sustainable roads

Engineers at Nottingham could help transform Thai roads by developing cheaper and more sustainable materials.

A research project exploring the use of natural rubber as a cheaper alternative to synthetic products in bitumen has led to a collaboration between The Nottingham Transportation Engineering Centre (NTEC), at the University of Nottingham, and the Department of Rural Roads (DRR) in Thailand.

The project, carried out at Nottingham by Jarurat Wititanapanit, came about as part of a new MSc in Transportation Infrastructure Engineering run by NTEC.

Jarurat looked at how naturally sourced rubber from the country could be used to substitute synthetic polymers in bitumen and produce cost-effective road surfacing.

Now the Ministry of Transport is looking at further sustainable and alternative materials to help its busy network of roads withstand the volume of traffic, as well as factors such as rising temperatures caused by climate change.

Professor Gordon Airey, Head of NTEC, said: “Our expertise in pavement research is well-known internationally as we are one of the only such groups in the UK. This new collaboration will provide a route for technology and knowledge transfer between our engineers and Thai authorities as well as ongoing opportunities for training and professional development.”

A delegation from the DRR in Thailand, which has responsibility for maintaining 48,000km of roads and overseeing maintenance of 300,000km of local roads, visited Nottingham for the official signing of a Memorandum of Understanding marking a starting point for how the two organisations will work together.

Possible collaborations will see training to assist with a number of regional laboratories to test and implement road materials, using NTEC’s expertise and equipment to help develop new materials and offering a pathway to MSc and PhD courses offered at the University. A particular area for collaboration is in the use of alternative materials in slurry seal; cold mixed asphalt; and self-healing asphalt.

The visit to the University enabled the Director of the Office for Road Safety Audit Chakree Bamrungwong, the Director of the International Cooperation Division Preecha Soparat and senior Civil Engineers at DRR to engage with PhD students working on NTEC’s leading research themes.

Areas for discussion included; the impact of climate change on infrastructure; sustainability in road and railway provision; and the impressive European training networks NTEC facilitates.

Jason Feehily Director of Knowledge Exchange-Asia at the University of Nottingham said: “We’re delighted that the expertise of Nottingham University engineers has caught the attention of Thai officials. We enjoyed hosting them and look forward to the future opportunities this partnership has the potential to create.”