Sector - Sustainability

Highways England explores use of graphene

Highways England is the latest company to join in partnership with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) in order to explore the operational and usage benefits of graphene in road surfaces and markings.

It is thought that the introduction of graphene as a new material in the construction and maintenance of roads will address the issues of deterioration on roads and pavement surfaces as the strength of graphene should significantly extend the life expectancy of roads and therefore make the network perform at an industry changing level.

It is also thought that the use of graphene in road construction by Highways England will not only reduce roadworks through increasing their longevity but will also drive the construction of a low carbon and digital road network.

Innovation Director at Highways England, Paul Doney stated: “We are really excited about the opportunity to explore leading edge materials and what this might lead to for our road network.

“GEIC is at the forefront, having made the discovery in Manchester, and by building a collaboration with our operations teams who understand the challenges, we are looking to deliver improved safety and performance of our roads.”

The GEIC is based at the University of Manchester and specialises in the development and expansion of two-dimensional material, graphene being a prime example, applications. As an innovation centre, the GEIC is industry led and is therefore designed to operate in collaboration with industry partners to create, test, and optimise new concepts for delivery into the market, as well as integration into supply chains.

The CEO of Graphene@Manchester, James Baker added: “This latest partnership is a brilliant example of how graphene can be used to tackle problems faced by most people every day.

“This is further enabled by the facilities and capabilities we can provide to our industry partners, that accelerates the many small improvements that ultimately create an optimised product.”

Graphene was first isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004 by Professor Sir Andre Geim and Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov and is materially stronger than steel, more conductive than copper, and is one million times thinner than a human hair.

Highways England maintains 4,300 miles of motorways and major A-roads, over which run 4 million journeys per day.

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