Warwickshire-based Nu-Phalt has developed an alternative infra-red road-repair system, which produces a heat-sealed repair with limited need for new material. The system is cheaper, quicker and less disruptive than traditional methods and produces repairs of higher quality, says the company. It also slashes carbon emissions associated with road repairs. Rarely can environmental improvements claim such all-round benefits. The judges praised Nu-Phalt as a glowing example of eco-innovation.
Most (94%) of the asphalt covering Britain's roads is made up of sand and stone, both of which can last indefinitely. But the bituminous binder degrades quickly, causing the asphalt to loosen and decay. With road traffic steadily rising, roads need repairing more often. Conventional repair techniques are costly and create waste, noise and air pollution. They are also very carbon-intensive, typically producing about 85 kg of CO2 per square metre.
Nu-Phalt developed an alternative infra-red road-repair system. Rather than excavating holes and then refilling with fresh material, this new method uses infra-red to melt existing macadam, using a minimum of new material, and then resetting the area around the defect for a seamless repair.
Nu-Phalt's is not the only infra-red road-repair system on the market. However, the company claims that it is the most efficient and also the most robust. Its equipment has an operating lifespan of up to three years, compared with just months for some others, Nu-Phalt says.
The process employs a Nippon Institute of Technology metal-fibre heater, originally developed for boilers. This uses significantly less liquid petroleum gas and can be operated more quickly. A microprocessor monitors the levels of infra-red pulse firing, cutting emissions and operation time. The 'Venturi' mixing system reduces breakages and manufacturing emissions.
The result is a process that is better in almost every way, claims Nu-Phalt. Only one vehicle is used, thus reducing traffic disruption. The repair process itself is faster, boosting productivity. Generation of waste going to landfill is virtually eliminated. The process is also cheaper: Nu-Phalt puts the savings to its customers at 40% compared with traditional methods. Moreover, the company claims that its repairs are of higher quality because existing materials are rejuvenated and no seams are left at the edges.
In late 2007, Nu-Phalt published an independent carbon-footprint assessment of the process. This concluded that repairing a pothole using Nu-Phalt's system would produce only 4.3 kg of carbon dioxide, compared with the 51.6 kg that would be released using traditional methods.
Critically, the infra-red system eliminates the need for a conventional 'hot box' system, and for the laying and raking of new hot-rolled asphalt. These two operations alone were calculated by the Scottish Institute of Sustainable Technology (SISTech) at Heriot Watt University to produce nearly 25 kg of carbon dioxide per repair.
It took four years of research and development for Nu-Phalt to bring its infra-red road-repair system to market. The company is now aiming to apply its patented NIT technology to flare landfill gas more efficiently than existing systems. It is also developing technology to enable landfill gas to be converted into clean fuel to be used in Nu-Phalt road repair vans.
Nu-Phalt has 21 employees and a turnover of about £2m.
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Web Link - http://www.nuphalt.com/