Young engineer Helen Bailey has won a prestigious industry award for her pioneering work which could reduce the carbon footprint of Britain’s road-building industry using waste chip fat.
Bailey, the research manager at construction and building materials company Aggregate Industries, was awarded the Fiona and Nicholas Hawley Excellence in Environmental Engineering Award 2009 by the Worshipful Company of Engineers.
She developed a solution using waste vegetable oil to achieve the same key properties as bitumen to bind asphalt mix, beneficially exploiting a waste material without loss of performance in the asphalt. A prototype of her process is being trialled by Aggregate Industries in Newark.
Bailey said: ‘The asphalt industry produces approximately 25m tonnes of asphalt every year, requiring about 1.25m tonnes of bitumen. This comes at a significant environmental and economic cost, as the whole process relies on expensive imported hydrocarbons.
‘I wanted to find an alternative with the same key properties as bitumen in the asphalt mix, using a waste product readily available within the UK. The solution I developed complies with UK standards for asphalt while reducing the carbon footprint in resultant products.’
Bailey was presented with the Hawley Award and a cheque for £5,000 at the Worshipful Company of Engineers’ Annual Awards Dinner in July 2009.
She plans to use the prize money to fund an educational trip to Japan to present her paper at the International Conference on Asphalt in August 2010. She is currently studying for a PhD in engineering at the University of East London, supported by Aggregate Industries.