'How can I get nature to help me deal with the challenges presented in public infrastructure?' It is a question that requires one to think outside the box, something TNO did together with twelve other participants from various backgrounds, professions, age and gender. A dynamic groups process that generated surprising results. Like biological asphalt.
Asphalt is made from granules that are 'glued' together with bitumen. That is the way it has always been done. Bitumen contains oil, an expensive and environmentally-unfriendly product. Moreover, asphalt lasts for just eight years, after which resurfacing using expensive, environmentally-unfriendly materials is required. But perhaps it is not necessary to use oil since nature itself can provide the adhesive. One only has to think of bacteria, mussels or potato starch.
The possibility to use bacteria as a adhesive is the most promising prospect and TNO has been investigating the bacteria that are naturally present in the asphalt and which of these are adhesive: a good pointer of durability. A future investigation will centre on the feasibility of this idea and the efficiency. The new method will ultimately also have to guarantee safe construction. Once the results of this are known, TNO will examine together with the partners whether this concept is actually practicable. Keep an eye on the TNO website to keep updated on this development.
Out-of-the-box thinking is needed these days if social issues like the environment or traffic jams are to be tackled. The idea for biological asphalt came out of a dynamic and creative group process, the kind of process that TNO can generate and supervise in cooperation with partners, offering added value in the process through delivering a high level of knowledge.