Publications

- May 1, 2020: Vol. 13, Number 5

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The roads of the future: Recycled plastics and solar panels could make future networks stronger, less expensive and even a source of energy production

by Igor Perepelychnyi

The global road network is one of the largest systems ever built by man. In the United States alone, the total length of roadway exceeds 4.1 million miles — enough to circle the Earth 165 times. While relatively simple to build as compared to other structures, such as skyscrapers or dams, the sheer scale of the global network makes road construction one of the largest sources of material consumption on our planet.

While road types can vary greatly depending on their use, location and construction method, the majority are formed from crushed rock, sand and asphalt in a process that releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. To curb the environmental impact of road construction, a number of new innovations are being developed.

Replacing some of the finite resources used in road construction with one of humanity’s most notorious waste products — all while extending the lifespan of the roadway itself — makes a lot of sense. In India, the proces

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