In this episode, road building with pig poop and shape-shifting, self-healing molecules that could make smart materials commonplace. Welcome to your Manufacturing Minute.
Road Building with Manure
Oil isn’t just an important part of the auto industry, it can also be an important ingredient for road building, but as the world looks to move away from petroleum researchers from North Carolina A&T State University have developed a process that uses pig manure in road asphalt production.
While searching for bio alternatives, the A&T group found that pig poop is rich in oils similar to petroleum—albeit a grade too low to make gasoline, but a suitable sticky binder to make asphalt. And at 56 cents a gallon to process the manure, it’s much cheaper and greener than current binders—putting the 43 billion gallons of waste produced by the world’s pig population to work for us.
If you’re concerned about the smell, the swiney smell is filtered out during processing and the dry matter left over can be used as fertilizer.
Currently, this bio-asphalt is being tested to see how it will respond to real world conditions—which, so far, have been successful at passing Department of Transportation specifications.
Multi-Tasking Smart Materials
Engineers have previously developed smart materials capable of a wide variety of unique functions, from forming shapes from memory to responding to external light and heat.
But those functions could only be performed one at a time, which, along with the inherent difficulty of producing them, made for slow adoption of the technology.
Researchers at Washington State University, however, recently filed a patent for a new material that combines several smart abilities for the first time.
Their material, comprised of long-chain molecules called liquid crystalline networks, can change shape by reacting to light or heat and assemble, disassemble and even heal itself.
Researchers showed that scratching the surface with a razorblade could simply be repaired by applying ultraviolet light.
Scientists believe the material could harbor a wide range of possible applications for smart materials, from actuators and drug delivery systems to solar panels and satellites.
Filed Under: Infrastructure