The Optimist Citizen
Say goodbye to potholes, for self-repairing roads are here!

Meet the man who innovated and built the self-repairing roads in Karnataka

Say goodbye to potholes! Nemkumar Banthia, a Canada-based Professor, has created self-repairing roads. These roads, as the name suggests, can repair themselves. Thus are more durable. They will also significantly minimize the cost and labour it takes to maintain roads.

Potholes are certainly an inconvenience- for both the public and the government. They not only make travelling on roads uncomfortable but also cost a lot to repair. It would be highly convenient if roads could fix themselves, one might think. Well, this will be a reality soon! 

Nemkuma Banthia, a Canada-based Professor, has created self-repairing roads
Nemkuma Banthia, an Indian-Origin Canada-based Professor, has created self-repairing roads

Nemkuma Banthia, a Canada-based Professor, has created self-repairing roads. The roads have concrete reinforced with high-strength fibres. These fibres require a trigger that would cause them to expand and fill gaps on the surface. In these roads, this trigger is water. When water enters the system, the fibres expand and fill the cracks. This water can be available in many forms, particularly from rains. With narrow cracks and constant hydration, an “in-built reservoir” of fibres is created, which will fill up any gap. 

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Understanding the self-healing roads

These roads are 60% thinner than ordinary roads. This implies that these roads require less concrete to be paved. The fibres on these roads make them more durable. Cement in the concrete is replaced with fly-ash, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the roads. Hence the road so made is more sustainable than the traditional method.

The self-repairing tendency of these roads, coupled with their high strength and reduced carbon footprint, gives them an edge over regular roads like no other. Once paved, they can stay intact for 15 years, making the technology very cost-efficient- the cost of maintaining these roads throughout their lifespan is half of what it takes to pave regular roads. Mr Banthia advocates that these roads are exactly what India needs right now.

 

Self-repairing roads are more durable and minimize the cost and labour.
These roads are more durable and minimize the cost and labour.

The road to validation

These roads have already seen success in India. The first working model of this technology was implemented in Thondebhavi, Karnataka, on an experimental basis. Before this, the village had what one would call a “kutcha” road in the Indian context. It was difficult for one to commute on that road. During the monsoons, the road was deemed practically unusable. However, things have been significantly better ever since the new roads were introduced. The road has three segments of varying thickness, each slightly different in thickness and combination of materials. That allowed the road to be a live research project and demonstrate results in real-time. The community was very accepting of new technologies and welcomed this living laboratory approach. Five years later, there has not been a single pothole or crack on the road. 

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About the Innovator

Known by his friends, colleagues, students and loved ones as “Nemy”, Mr Banthia is a professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada. A graduate of IIT-Delhi, he researches civil engineering, sensing, and AI applied to infrastructure. He mainly works on concrete and composites and aims to implement self-healing technology to other materials as well. He cites the human body and as an inspiration behind the functioning of self-healing systems. 

His most notable work, however, comes from his Indo-Canadian multidisciplinary research centre, IC-IMPACT, of which he is the Scientific Director and CEO. This centre conducts research to provide solutions that would improve the lives of communities in India and Canada. IC-IMPACT also works on providing robust water management systems and public healthcare to millions of people. Mr Banthia is a big advocate for accessibility and transparency. Almost all of his research is open in the public domain for people to peruse.
Mr. Banthia With-the-Prime-Minister-of-Canada

The way forward 

The success story of these roads in Thondebhavi has gained a lot of traction. A lot of Government agencies and private companies are now interested in this technology. The Karnataka Government has already agreed to a partnership deal. A stretch of this road has also been paved in the Chawthil First Nation community in Canada.

He opines that scientists and science at large should be in the service of the public instead of chasing profits. “The core value behind all our work is public service. I firmly believe science must be used to benefit the poor, instead of the rich. And only with innovation, can we ever pull people out of poverty,” he says.

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