A lot of the new asphalt you see in new cars these days is made from petroleum-based asphalt, and that petroleum-heavy asphalt has to be mixed with recycled plastics.
But a new research paper published this week finds that you can make your own petroleum-derived asphalt at home.
The paper, which was published in Nature Energy, reports that using water-soluble polymers to make the synthetic asphalt is an inexpensive, easy, and environmentally friendly process that can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 75 percent.
In this video, researchers demonstrate how you can apply this process to make synthetic asphalt in a lab.
Read more about the paper here.
“The idea is that we can create materials that are highly energy-efficient,” said Ravi Singh, the paper’s lead author and a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan.
“They’re highly porous, so they can absorb the energy of the chemical reaction and can release the heat that’s needed to react them.”
The process also works for materials with lower energy densities, like wood or glass.
Singh and his team applied their method to materials made of materials such as polyethylene or styrene that can be used in the construction industry.
“We wanted to understand the properties of these materials, the properties that they can achieve, and what are the applications,” he said.
“And then, after we had done that, we looked at the materials that have already been made and were looking for applications.
And then, we found that they all had the same properties.”
Singh said that his team has found that using polymers as a substitute for petroleum-containing asphalt can reduce the amount of energy required to make an asphalt.
“What we’re doing is we’re using these polymers, and then we’re adding the petroleum to the polymer and then applying that to the surface,” Singh said.
The polymer is mixed with water to form a mix of oil and water, which is then poured into a metal container.
“Then, after the polymer is in the container, we add a little bit of petroleum and the polymer that’s in there absorbs the energy and the heat from the reaction and releases the heat,” Singh explained.
“So that allows the polymer to absorb the heat and release it into the environment and then it can be reused in the future.
And that’s what we’re looking at.”
Singh also said that the researchers found that polymers that have a higher percentage of organic carbon can also be used as a carbon sink, and can absorb more carbon than the petroleum-rich material.
Singh said this can make the material a good substitute for traditional petroleum-saturated asphalt that’s often used in high-pressure systems, like pipelines and power plants.
“There are a lot of people who think that the use of petroleum-filled asphalt in high pressure systems is wasteful and unsafe, but we actually found that in our research, there was no difference in the performance of the asphalt,” Singh told The Verge.
Singh also noted that the paper also shows that polymer-based synthetic asphalt can be easily recycled.
“When you add polymers and you add oil to it, it’s really easy to reuse, and it’s very easy to get rid of,” Singh added.
“You can reuse it in other materials.
You can reuse the polymers.”
The researchers are currently working on building a 3-D printed plastic version of the synthetic material that they are testing.
Singh added that the research team is also looking into making other materials using polymeric polymers.