February 27, 2009
A new partnership agreement between the Saskatchewan Centre for Excellence for Transportation and Infrastructure, located in the College of Engineering, and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M sets the stage for joint research into advanced road-building materials and systems that perform better in the extremes of the Saskatchewan climate.
Curtis Berthelot, director of the centre, said that while the American institute is one of the world’s largest transportation research organizations, the Saskatchewan partner in the agreement offers two main advantages – access to northern climate field testing and to materials research using the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.
“The main thrust of our work is advanced materials science,” said Berthelot. “With the CLS, we now have the highest scientific capabilities that allow us to get down to the chemical level in terms of materials durability and engineering recycled materials.”
Berthelot explained the centre’s work focuses on recycling—developing engineering systems that will process old road-building material or asphalt, “rejuvenate it and make it superior to what it was.” Saskatchewan has consumed a large quantity of its available aggregate, a key component in road building, he said. To be able to recycle old asphalt, either in situ or off site, and reuse it in new roads would mitigate the cost and environmental challenges of hauling aggregate from afar.
Research and development in this area at the University of Saskatchewan “has seen us doing high-end theory but also implementing that theory in the field,” said Berthelot. A number of test sections of road will be built in the city this summer to evaluate the effectiveness of recycled materials engineering to create substructures for new roads. The university’s Facilities Management Division is even considering including test sections as part of rebuilding projects on campus, he said.
Given the size of Saskatchewan’s transportation network, the potential for applying new road building techniques is enormous. According to the provincial Department of Highways and Infrastructure, Saskatchewan’s 26,000 kilometres of roads is the largest in Canada on a per capita basis. By including municipal and grid roads, the network is one of the largest in North America on an absolute basis.