HOHAI UNIVERSITY, CHINA
Research focus: the use of industrial waste lignin as a partial replacement of asphalt binder for sustainable road construction
Asphalt is the world’s most important binder for road construction, however its use poses significant problems. The cost of asphalt is determined by the price of crude oil, which in the past has pushed the price of a ton of asphalt to over $400. Additionally, if use continues at today’s rates, the world will run out of petroleum in 2063. Concerns have also been raised about the security of the supply of petroleum products and its impact on the environmental climate. It is therefore imperative for an alternative binding substance to be found.
Eyram’s research focuses on using industrial waste material to partially replace asphalt binder to make sustainable and cheaper road surfaces, to help reduce the dependence on oil products. In his project, he is modifying asphalt with lignin, a sustainable, renewable and environmentally friendly waste biomass. Lignin is readily available, as a by-product obtained from the paper-making or corn industry, and about 50 million tons of lignin are produced annually. Asphalt modification with Lignin will produce cheaper, sustainable and environmentally-friendly composite material for sustainable permeable roads construction development. Another advantage of using lignin is that it prevents oxidation of asphalt roads over time. Oxidation reduces the lifespan of roads. Lignin is an ideal antioxidant to counteract this problem. The new biocomposite binder material will also be used to make permeable asphalt pavements for road construction in order to help manage floodwater. Eyram’s objective is to investigate the feasibility of adding 20-30 percent lignin to asphalt to produce a bio-composite material with excellent engineering properties for sustainable road pavement and storm water management.
The jury was impressed by the array of problems that Eyram’s project has the potential to solve, from lowering costs, decreasing environmental damage and reducing the impact of flooding. Eyram was also commended for his re-use of a waste substances as a means to supporting the industrial development of economically, socially and environmentally-sustainable approaches.