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Where the Rubber Is the Road

Research led by a North Dakota State University professor searches for improvements in rubberized asphalt compounds, technology that could cut road maintenance costs and improve urban landscapes.

by Colin Wood / April 22, 2014
Better rubberized asphalt compounds could cut roadway maintenance costs. e.Republic/David Kidd

New research could make use of the 300 million scrap tires that Americans generate each year. Magdy Abdelrahman, associate professor of civil engineering at North Dakota State University, is experimenting with various conditions, additives and mixtures to refine the process of combining crumb rubber with asphalt.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Abdelrahman’s research could help bring more rubberized asphalt to the market. The largest consumers of rubberized asphalt are California, Arizona and Florida, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Texas, Nebraska, South Carolina, New York, Washington and New Mexico also use the technology.

Rubberized asphalt is generally more expensive to produce than regular asphalt, but it tends to last longer when used for roadways, and can also reduce traffic noise.

Advances in rubberized asphalt could help reduce the number of tires that rot in landfills, while also providing utility to governments and the general public. Abdelrahman is experimenting with various additives to rubberized asphalt compounds. He also is checking to ensure that these additives do not lead to harmful chemicals that would be released from the asphalt when exposed to inclement weather.

"We already know that the technology is proven to work,” Abdelrahman told, “but we want to make it work much, much better."

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