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Asphalt: The Latest Architecture and News

The Next Sustainability Crisis: Humans Are Using So Much Sand That We May Actually Run Out

Objects made of Finite, a material developed by students from Imperial College London using desert sand. Image © Finite
Objects made of Finite, a material developed by students from Imperial College London using desert sand. Image © Finite

Sand is the most-consumed natural resource in the world after water and air. Modern cities are built out of it. In the construction industry alone, it is estimated that 25 billion tons of sand and gravel are used every year. That may sound a lot, but it’s not a surprising figure when you consider how everything you’re surrounded with is probably made of the stuff.

But it’s running out.

This is a scary fact to think about once you realize that sand is required to make both concrete and asphalt, not to mention every single window on this planet. The United Nations Environment Programme found out that from 2011 to 2013, China alone used more cement than the United States had used in the entire 20th century and in 2012, the world used enough concrete to build a wall around the equator that would be 89 feet high and 89 feet thick (27 by 27 meters).

Erik Schlangen Proves the Potential of “Self-Healing Asphalt”

Imagine a pervious asphalt that not only significantly reduces noise pollution, but saves millions in maintenance and repairs by its ability to self-heal. Well, this type of super-asphalt is not far from being distributed world-wide as experimental micromechanic pioneer Erik Schlangen of Delft Technical University has been studying the material’s potential on a test track in The Netherland’s for the past few years.

Basically, with the introduction of small steel wool fibers, Self Healing Asphalt is capable of repairing micro-cracks and significantly extending the service life of roadways through induction heating. Similarly, Schlangen is leading the research on Self Healing Concrete, where by infusing concrete with a harmless limestone-producing bacteria that feeds off of calcium lactate - a component of milk - the material has the potential to self-heal micro-cracks in the presence of rainwater.