Highways England and GEIC investigate graphene roads

Highways England is looking to avert deterioration in roads and pavements by investigating the use of graphene in surfaces.

(Credit: Ordnance Survey)

The government company is partnering with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) in Manchester to work on these and other challenges experienced by England’s road network.

Highways England is responsible for the motorways and major A roads in the country, which are said to carry four million journeys over 4,300 miles of road network per day.

According to GEIC, adding graphene into maintenance and renewals operations has the potential to extend asset life and make the network perform at an ‘industry changing’ level. To this end, the partnership will assess the operational and road user benefit of incorporating graphene into road surfacing and road markings, which could lead to stronger, long-lasting materials that reduce roadworks and improve road user journeys.

“This latest partnership is a brilliant example of how graphene can be used to tackle problems faced by most people every day,” James Baker, CEO Graphene@Manchester said in a statement. “This is further enabled by the facilities and capabilities we can provide to our industry partners, that accelerates the many small improvements that ultimately create an optimised product.”

“We are really excited about the opportunity to explore leading-edge materials and what this might lead to for our road network,” added Paul Doney, innovation director at Highways England.

Graphene is a two-dimensional material with properties that make it many more times stronger than steel, and more conductive than copper. The material was first isolated at Manchester University in 2004 by Prof Sir Andre Geim and Prof Sir Kostya Novoselov. GEIC opened in December 2018 to specialise in the rapid development and scale-up of graphene and other 2D materials applications.

More on how GEIC works with industry partners to create, test and optimise new concepts can be found in Eureka! magazine’s feature titled: Manchester's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre is the latest step in bringing this material to market.