In 1870, Belgian chemist Edmund DeSmedt laid the first American asphalt pavement in front of the City Hall in Newark, New Jersey. Since then, asphalt has been the foundation for 94% of American roads. Asphalt roads can last about 15 to 20 years before needing to undergo major reconstruction. Recently, there has been extensive research to extend the life cycle of asphalt. New products branded as “asphalt rejuvenators” restore asphalt’s chemical properties preventing deterioration and frequent maintenance.
Renewed and maintained asphalt makes roads safer and more sustainable. Rejuvenating asphalt to its original state makes roads smoother which prevents car damage due to holes and cracks. Smoother roads also lead to better fuel efficiency which is important for reducing a road’s carbon footprint. Additionally, because rejuvenating asphalt extends a road’s longevity, it also recycles fossil fuels.
Asphalt rejuvenators are already reducing maintenance on highways. There are three kinds of asphalt rejuvenators in the market right now: asphalt based, coal tar based, and bio based rejuvenators. A popular asphalt based substance is Optipave. It works as a rejuvenator and a seal for roads that have suffered wear and tear over the years. Rejuvaseal is a popular coal tar based rejuvenator that promises to penetrate pavement surfaces to restore ductility and flexibility. Cargill, a private agricultural conglomerate based in Minnesota, created a bio-based asphalt rejuvenator called Anova. The Minnesota DOT tested this rejuvenator in Albertville, MN as part of the National Road Research Alliance. The pilot was a success, and MnDOT continues to do testing and analysis on roads across the state.
“”"There are three kinds of asphalt rejuvenators in the market right now: asphalt based, coal tar based, and bio based rejuvenators."
Asphalt rejuvenators are continuing to evolve to become more affordable, more accessible, and more sustainable. Ellie Fini, senior scientist at ASU, had her research on bio-based asphalt rejuvenators published in the ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering journal in May of 2020. Her combination of algae and swine manure produces a powerful bio-oil that revitalizes and supplements asphalt. The process is natural, regenerative, and could pave the way for zero carbon and zero waste highways, two goals central to The Ray’s mission.
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