Pam White tells us a new kind of non-petroleum based asphalt that is being used to repair some of Tucson's many potholes.

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Mike Kazz, of Zelen Environmental, has been working with University of Arizona students in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering to develop a new cost-effective asphalt that doesn't use petroleum. Hseth Burch and Jane Chen worked on this substance for their Senior Design Project and both agree this initial effort is just a rough draft.

A synthetic asphalt it is more cost effective than regular asphalt because it's non petroleum based and is not dependent on petroleum prices. George Caria, Interim Deputy Director for the Department of Transportation says, "It could be 60 to 70 percent cheaper than the patch we typically use so that's a very exciting aspect of it." Not only is the asphalt more environmentally friendly but it uses millings from old roads from a local asphalt recycler.

Students had a chance to test their product last week when they worked with city workers repairing pot holes. Burch says, "both Jane and I got some hands on experience, shoveling out, packing it down." Robert Vidal, an Equipment Operator Specialist with the City of Tucson's Department of Transportation says, "it's a little clumpy right now, they are going to refine it, it packs well, we'll see how long it holds up, it doesn't stick to your feet, it's clean, and we'll see what happens."

The real test will be to see if the newly repaired pot holes survive the Monsoon. Heavy rains can easily wash away the cold patches used to fix the holes.

Mike Kazz thinks this is a good start, "We are using a non-petroleum starch based polymer and we are still working out the kinks, still working on making a formulation that's going to be more water resistant. We think it's going to hold up reasonably well but there is more work to do on it." Kazz says he compares this concept to what is being done by water bottle manufacturers in using non-petroleum plastics. He says, "This isn't going to replace all the asphalt, but if we can reduce the amount of imported oil used to make asphalt old patches, it will help out."

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Greener asphalt is being tested

Zelen Environmental
City of Tucson Environmental Services Department
UA Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering