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USask scientists hopeful recycled materials can minimize potholes

Haithem Soliman and his colleague, Mai Alawneh, are testing asphalt mixtures used to build roads to make them stronger and minimize potholes. File / Global News

It’s a problem that repeats itself every year — the thawing and freezing cycle that leads to potholes on city streets.

Scientists at the University of Saskatchewan are conducting experiments to determine if recycled materials can lead to more durable roads and potentially reduce potholes in the future.

“Our project aims to evaluate the impact of Canadian winters and freezing conditions on the performance of roadway materials,” said Haithem Soliman with the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan.

“Basically, we are trying to simulate what happens with the road.”

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Soliman and his colleague, Mai Alawneh, are testing asphalt mixtures used to build roads to make them stronger and minimize potholes.

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The team is using the Canadian Light Source at the university as part of its research.

Soliman said the high-resolution images generated by the beamline allow them to see what happens to the asphalt mix after samples are exposed to the freeze-thaw cycle.

“The advanced imaging technology at the CLS allowed us to see the damage within roadways and asphalt materials at a very small scale,” Soliman said.

“If we can simulate what happens in reality, the lab can predict the future performance so we can change our mix designs … to make it durable and last for a long time.”

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He said this could become a new tool to be used by engineers and municipalities to try new products.

“(To) use more recycled material on our roads, make our roads more sustainable and reduce the carbon footprint of roadway construction.”

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