It’s the strongest compound known to man. But can graphene withstand the British weather?
This isn’t a scientific study, but we reckon that you could probably drive our hire cars and rental vans an average of about 30 feet on any given road before you come across a pothole. They are a curse of modern motoring and often they’re not just something to tut or wince at as you hit one; they can cause real damage (as the teams who maintain our lease vehicles will regularly testify).
As this article notes, 674,000 potholes were reported to councils in just the last 12 months, and Department for Transport figures show potholes were cited as a contributory factor in 539 accidents in 2017.
The problem of course, is that although road surfacing technology keeps improving, the volume of vehicles on our road keeps going up too. Combine that with more extreme weather events than ever before, and our roads have to take a pummelling from heat, rain, ice and heavy traffic. It’s little wonder holes appear.
One solution may lie in using graphene, the ultra-strong material developed at the University of Manchester, with a thickness of just a single layer of carbon atoms.
The new road surfacing material mixes a small amount of graphene with asphalt, increasing the strength and elasticity of the road surface. It has been designed in Italy and has already been tested on a stretch of road near Rome, where results showed it to be 35% more resistant to traffic than regular asphalt.
Now, the technology is set for a trial on a stretch of road near London where, in addition to heavy pummelling by traffic, the graphene-modified road surface will face its greatest challenge yet: the British weather.
If successful, however, the new road surface could cut the cost of road maintenance, cut the cost and risk of accidents and – happily for us and everyone who uses our hire cars – reduce the impact of pothole damage on our rental vehicle fleet.