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IIT Alumnus Uses Radical Technology to Develop Roads That Self-Repair

Nemkumar Bhantia, a professor of civil engineering, has developed roads that are self-repairing, sustainable, long-lasting, and cost-effective.

Nemkumar Bhantia, a professor in the Civil Engineering Department at University of British Columbia (UBC) in the Canada, has developed roads that are self-repairing, sustainable, long-lasting, and cost-effective. The road on which he demonstrated the favourable outcome of this project connects Thondebavi village, which is 90 kms from Bengaluru, to a highway.

The professor is a graduate of IIT Delhi and has been living in Canada for 34 years. Nemkumar is also the Scientific Director of the Canada-Indian Research Centre of Excellence IC- IMPACTS, which is based in UBC. This Centre focuses on creating collaborative projects that “develop and implement community-based solutions to the most urgent needs of each nation.” In 2014, a team from this Centre, after interacting with panchayat members and other people from the community, elected Thondebavi for the trial run.

Earlier, there was only a dirt track in the village, which the 1,200 residents of the village used to carry their produce to the market.

The new road was constructed in October 2015, but it had to be monitored during the Indian summer and monsoon to make sure it lasted despite weather fluctuations. After being functional and sturdy for more than an year, Nemkumar’s road project has been declared a success.


Image Source: IC- Impacts

The road is about 100mm thick, which makes it about 60% less thick than the standard Indian road. This makes the first-time cost of laying out such a road about 30% cheaper. It is important to keep in mind that when cement is used to create roads, it generates greenhouse gases, which negatively affect the environment. To prevent this, 60% of the cement was replaced with fly ash. But the most amazing thing about this road is how it comes with built-in crack healing.

The high strength concrete used to make the road is bolstered with fibre reinforcement using nano-coating, which makes the concrete absorb water while keeping the road hydrated.

Nemkumar told The Hindustan Times,““These are fibres which have a hydrophilic nano-coating on them. Hydrophilia means they attract water and this water then becomes available for crack healing. Every time you have a crack, you always have unhydrated cement and this water is now giving it the hydration capability, producing further silicates which actually closes the crack in time.”

He also expects the road to remain sturdy for another 15 years, which comes as a relief considering the average lifespan of roads in rural India is just two years. This is good news for many Indians who are tired of bumping along roads full of potholes. The project will also help ensure that remote areas in the country are more accessible. According to reports, since India requires around 2.4 million km of roads in rural areas, this project might be implemented in other states like Haryana and Madhya Pradesh as well. Nemkumar said that there is a “great deal of interest” from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways  for a highway demonstration project.

To know more about this project, click here.

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