Bitumen 4.0 and Future Mobility
In the second of our articles on how roads are being shaped by future mobility, we take a closer look at the ways in which the bitumen sector is gearing up to the changes that a digitised world will bring. It is a topic that will be centre stage at the 7th E&E Congress in June 2021 with its theme of Asphalt 4.0.
Continued advances in the bitumen sector as well as increased take up of existing technologies will be key to building and maintaining the roads of the future. With its versatility, flexibility and durability benefits, bitumen is already providing important performance properties that are needed to deliver the roads of tomorrow, today.
Bitumen has come a long way since it was first used as an adhesive in construction over 3,000 years ago. Modern usage now includes soil stabilisation and bituminous waterproofing products, such as roofing membranes, but its primary use is in road construction and maintenance – where it helps to deliver the safe, modern asphalt roads we all rely on.
Today the bitumen sector mirrors many other industries as it seizes the opportunities the fourth industrial revolution – or digital age – offers. Technological innovation is helping to drive advances and the industry is committed to product development, as well as exemplary health and safety and environmental policies and testing procedures. Consequently, the bitumen used in modern asphalts on roads, airfield runways and even Formula One racetracks, has sophisticated engineering properties, providing an efficient, sustainable, safe and long-lasting material, often exceeding current performance demands.
But, as we look ahead, are we ready for the further changes that the shift to future mobility will bring?
The international benchmarking report (published by Routes de France, et al1) released at the end of last year assessed approaches to future mobility around the world. It found that in Europe, ‘the role of road infrastructure is still largely underestimated…however maintenance is recognised as a key element to enable the deployment of new forms of mobility’.
As we transition to new modes of mobility there is no doubt that the demands placed on our road networks will change. Coupled with the need to respond to the effects of climate change and carbon net zero targets, this is an important moment for the future of roads and defining their role in society.
Innovation delivers enhanced performance
Staying ahead of evolving technical requirements and standards has always been a strength of the bitumen sector. For example, the development of polymer modified bitumen (PMB), which improves fatigue performance and resistance to deformation, provides pavements with prolonged service life, critical for road networks funded by the public purse. Similarly, Government and road authorities’ safety aims have been supported by advanced bitumen solutions, such as facilitating asphalts with enhanced skid resistance or the development of coloured and textured asphalts to delineate bus lanes, bus stops and cycle paths.
Significantly, as the bitumen used in road surfaces and other applications is 100% reusable, it can be collected and reused in road surfacing again and again, contributing positively towards 2050 carbon neutrality targets. European data indicates that 75%2 of asphalt from existing roads at the end of their service life is now re-used in asphalt as Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP). Bitumen is also key in unlocking savings of up to 15%3 in the carbon emissions associated with asphalt production through the enhanced take-up of warm mix asphalts (WMA). The principle behind WMA technologies is to manufacture and lay asphalt at lower temperatures, using less energy and delivering meaningful carbon savings and safer working conditions, without compromising performance.
Bitumen 4.0 – time for collaborative thinking
The bitumen sector has a long track record in innovative developments to get the best from new technologies, staying ahead of evolving technical requirements to meet user demands. Our methodical approach to testing also means that ours is a data-led approach, without ever compromising performance.
Looking ahead, we’re certain that continued innovation will sustain bitumen’s position as the key component in asphalt, Europe’s primary road paving material, helping to pave the route to a low-carbon future. However, in these uncertain Covid-19 times with, potentially, long-term implications for the ways in which our roads are used, future user requirements for performance and technology will need to be continual evaluated. Working together will be critical in identifying where our focus should be as the shape of future mobility firms up. Whether it’s adapting existing technologies, or investing in new ones, involvement from across the sector will help us align our approach and ensure the best outcomes.
That’s why industry-wide involvement at the virtual 7th E&E Congress in June of this year is vital to broaden the debate and support the transition to Asphalt 4.0. The programme already features papers on a number of key topics that could help inform thinking, including on heated/cooled roads, dual purpose pavements and intelligent roads. Plus, the adapted online congress format means that it will be an immersive experience for delegates with lots of opportunity for dialogue.
No one person or organisation has all the answers and voices from across the bitumen sector need to be heard. We look forward to your participation at E&E 2021.
- Published by Routes de France, the European Road Federation (ERF) and the Fédération Nationale des Travaux Publics (FNTP), in collaboration with the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) and the Confederation of International Contractors' Associations (CICA)
- European Asphalt Pavement Association (EAPA) The use of secondary materials, by-products and waste in asphalt mixtures eapa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/EAPA_PP_Secondary_Materials_2020-1.pdf
- The All Party Parliamentary Group on Highways Working for better roads Warm Mix Asphalt: reducing carbon emissions and improving efficiencies
Ahead of the 7th E&E Congress, Eurobitume is keen to hear your thoughts so we can start a dialogue with members and stakeholders via our social media platforms.
Tell us what you think the priorities are for the bitumen sector in planning for future mobility and the Asphalt 4.0 world, by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by posting on www.linkedin.com/in/eurobitume-e-383929167/ or twitter.com/eurobitume.