QUT and Global Road Technology invest in building better roads

23rd December 2015

A new research partnership between QUT and Global Road Technology will deliver health and safety benefits for mine sites, regional towns and third-world countries through spray-on, “instant” roads that can make dirt roads as hard-wearing as bitumen.

Research Fellow Mariam Darestani, from QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty, said the aim of the partnership was to deliver new polymers, which when mixed with water applied from tankers or helicopters could produce long-lasting roads in remote locations.

She said the result would be longer-lasting, lower cost roads which were safer for motorists, could survive adverse weather and reduce the amount of airborne dust for neighbouring workers and communities.

The partnership is expected to find more applications for the polymer solutions and change the road infrastructure industry.

GRT head of research and development Dr Babak Abtahi said different solutions were required depending on the environment, including soil conditions, temperature and rainfall.

“Given the vast types of soil we apply GRT technology to around the world, it is imperative we continue to develop different product solutions,” Dr Abtahi said.

He said GRT had already proven the success of its technology, building lower cost roads that were longer-lasting and faster, with completed projects in Australia and overseas.

The company, together with QUT, has now gone further with research into the varied performance of polymers in a range of geographic locations, and the custom development of new solutions.

GRT’s internal research and development team, together with QUT’s advanced, high-tech facilities and complementary expertise, have taken their research to the next level.

Dr Darestani said their investigation into the interaction between soil and polymer had allowed the team to understand why a polymer worked with some soil types, but failed in creating the desired mechanical strength in other soil types.

“GRT operates by considering the many different soil types, and the characteristics that they respond well to. We are also working to develop products that work with most soil types,” Dr Darestani said.

“Polymers are very different; GRT knows this and is one of the first companies internationally to develop solutions and formulate products for different applications, whilst investing in the education of others.”

Dr Abtahi said the research would have valuable, commercial outcomes.

“Major US companies have patents for polymer solutions; our investment is a clear indication of the potential this technology presents for the future of infrastructure,” Dr Abtahi said.

The GRT/QUT partnership team includes Dr Darestani and a research assistant, supported by a Chemical Engineering Professor and a Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering, who manage the project at QUT.

Undergraduates who go on to work in engineering jobs are encouraged to work with these polymers, and GRT provides in-kind support for their research projects.

Dr Darestani said QUT and GRT view the partnership as a long-term investment in the future generation of civil and industrial engineers.

“We are educating young engineers and training on the benefits of polymers over traditional construction materials, with the view that they will go on to advocate this new technology and hopefully create change within the industry,” Dr Darestani said.

“We are looking to incorporate this content into the curriculum in the future, where engineers can be educated on the future of infrastructure technology through real world examples.

“We are essentially pioneering this movement towards polymers in the next generation of engineers.”

QUT is part of a national collaborative group of five major Australian universities that form the ATN (Australian Technology Network of Universities).

Media contact:
Sandra Hutchinson, QUT Media (Tue, Wed), 07 3138 9449 or media@qut.edu.au
After hours, Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901

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