Quirks & Quarks

Driverless car, meet self repairing road

In the future we won't drive our cars, and we won't repair our roads.
A crew works to build a concrete road in the Indian village of Thondebhavi, in Karnataka, India. But it's not just any concrete - within this material lies the capacity to self-repair cracks. (IC-Impacts)

Most of us pay little attention to the concrete that surrounds us, unless it's falling apart.

And that happens often enough.

That's because concrete is a brittle material -- Canadians are familiar with bridges in Montreal deteriorating, or chunks of the Don Valley Expressway crumbling. 

But a Canadian researcher is working on a type of concrete that can essentially 'heal' itself. Dr. Nemkumar Banthia uses tiny fibres to reinforce concrete and to prevent cracks from getting too big. Those fibres also have a hydrophilic nano-coating, which attracts moisture to help produce more silicate material which fills in any cracks that do occur. 

It's like using stitches to hold a cut together, and then tissue eventually fills in the gap.   

This material is being tested for the first time on a road in Southern India, and this spring, another road will be constructed on the Lubicon Lake First Nations Reserve, north of Edmonton.