International road construction and maintenance company Global Road Technology (GRT) has renewed its partnership with leading Australian university, Queensland University of Technology.

In the past year GRT and QUT have made considerable strides with the development of advanced road construction solutions. GRT’s technology when applied to dirt roads, binds the surface together to make a dust-free, hard wearing and longer lasting road.

The researchers at QUT work to answer how and why polymers perform differently in a range of geographic applications. GRT Head of Research and Development Dr Babak Abtahi said different infrastructure solutions work more effectively than others depending on the type of soil.

“Given the vast types of soil we apply our technology to around the world, it is imperative we continue to develop different product solutions,” Dr Abtahi said. GRT has a strong internal research and development team, but needed access to advanced high-tech facilities and complimentary expertise at QUT to take their research to the next level. “QUT was the obvious choice for the partnership. Their research facilities catered to the three key areas we wanted to investigate; characterization, lab testing, and quality control.” The partnership is also expected to have wide-ranging benefits for industry. Historically wide ranges of polymers have been used by a trial and error method, not systematic studies. Therefore, reports are often contradictory and sometimes biased. But QUT Research Fellow Mariam Darestani said that investigation on the mechanism of interaction between soil and polymer is required to understand why a polymer works with some soil types, but fails in creating desirable mechanical strength in others.

“Polymers are very different; GRT knows this and is one of the first companies internationally to develop solutions and formulate products for different applications,” Dr Darestani said. “GRT operates by considering the many different soil types, and the characteristics that they respond well to. We are also working to develop products that work with most soil types.” Dr Abtahi said the industry remains very traditional when it comes to the resources used to build roads, and generally every new product that goes to market is met with resistance.

“They prefer the old way, or are disheartened if a certain polymer is unsuccessful, which is mostly due to the type of solution not being compatible with the soil or the application method is not designed properly.” Dr Abtahi said. “Major US companies have patents for polymer solutions; our investment is a clear indication of the potential this technology presents for the future of infrastructure.

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GRT managing director Troy Adams said, In Australia, there are high costs associated with the manufacturing of roads, partly due to high labour hire costs, the environment, and variety of soils that exist. “Australia needs infrastructure. However, the cost to build roads with the current industry-preferred method is estimated to be up to millions of dollars per kilometre. GRT solutions reduce not only the costs of resources, but also time and labour.” The GRT/QUT partnership team includes Dr Darestani and a research assistant, supported by a Chemical Engineering Professor and a Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering, who manage the project at QUT. Undergraduates who go on to work in engineering are encouraged to work with these polymers, and GRT provides in-kind support for their research projects.

Both GRT and QUT view this as a long-term investment in the future generation of civil and industrial engineers.“We need to educate these young engineers and train them on technology before they head out to the workforce,” Dr Darestani said. “If students are educated on the benefits of polymers over traditional construction materials, they can go on to be advocates for this new technology and hopefully create change within the industry.“We are looking to incorporate this content into the curriculum in the future, where engineers can be educated on the future of infrastructure technology through real world examples. “We are essentially pioneering this movement towards polymers in the next generation of engineers.”

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