Green tech: French firm tests plant-based asphalt on new road

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A company in France, Eiffage, is in the lead to displace another important fossil commodity, asphalt, with a plant based option it calls biophalt. It is now working to use biophalt to resurface a one-mile stretch of road in Haute-Garonne, France

Production of biophalt means that the mission towards a greener future of mobility goes beyond the vehicles to the roads. It also highlights the fact that infrastructure is creeping into the growing campaign for green resources.

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The asphalt on the roads we drive and ride on is made primarily out of petroleum crude oil, so it’s probably the farthest thing from carbon neutral out there. But Eiffage Route has been working on biophalt since 2018 as an alternative to traditional asphalt.

Biophalt is said to offer the same benefits as asphalt while taking the crude oil out of the equation. The technology has so much potential, that in 2019, it was given an award by the Roads and Streets Innovation Committee of the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

Biophalt sets itself apart from traditional asphalt by making use of a vegetable binder instead of crude oil. Moreover, in terms of traffic volume, climatic resilience, traction, and durability, Biophalt has similar attributes to conventional asphalt. It is also applied at mild temperatures and has a reduced production temperature requirement, both of which provide energy savings. With all of this, Biophalt claims to have a carbon-neutral footprint.

Recently, the southwest French department of Haute-Garonne made the decision to test the Biophalt mix from Eiffage by resurfacing a mile-long section of road near Merville on the departmental route between Granada and Montaigut-sur-Save. In comparison to conventional asphalt, Biophalt has the potential to save 270 tons of new materials and 47 tons of CO2 by preserving at least 55 percent of the asphalt pavement aggregates. If this is multiplied to account for even more roads, Biophalt has the potential to set the entire road infrastructure industry on a new course.

The price of this technology is inevitably five to ten percent more, according to Haute-Garrone’s ecological transition department. The cost of producing Biophalt will, however, definitely decrease as more people use it, as is typically the case with new technologies. Having said that, a two-year follow-up will now be conducted to evaluate if the Biophalt lives up to its promises over time and if it can be deployed on more of the 3,836 miles of roads surrounding Haute-Garonne.

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