Asphalt is a mixture of aggregates, bitumen and filler, used for constructing and maintaining roads, parking areas, ports and airport runways among others.
There are various benefits to using asphalt for paving:
1. Smoothness / Ride Quality
Asphalt mixes provide a smoother pavement surface, thus reducing damages to the surface. It improves fuel efficiency and reduces wear & tear of the vehicle tyres. Finally, paving roads and highways with asphalt significantly reduces the noise generated by the tire/pavement interface providing for a quieter ride experience for the motorist.
2. Faster Construction
Asphalt roads can be constructed quickly. Traffic can be opened on the road after construction pretty quickly. Asphalt is ready for traffic right after it is compacted and cooled, which means better traffic flow, minimized closures and happier motorists.
3. Quick Maintenance
Asphalt pavements have the ability to last forever when designed properly. Using asphalt, the maintenance can be done quickly and at times, it can be done even with partially-open traffic. The road needn’t be blocked for a long time. Additionally, maintenance activities can be planned during weekends or off-traffic hours causing minimal disruption to commerce.
Road paved with asphalt mixtures will have a feature that it gets smooth like finish. It offers drivers skid resistance, splash back and better visual distinction between road markings.
5. Sustainability through Recycling
Asphalt is a recyclable material, meaning its lifecycle never ends. Once laid mixture can be dug up and re-used in the future for maintenance works or for new construction. This allows to preserve the environment by reducing the strain on the ecosystem, thereby driving the factor of sustainability in road construction.
However, it is not without its own disadvantages. Some of them are detailed below:
1. In order for asphalt to be used, the bitumen needs to be heated to 160 – 1800C so that it becomes a liquid which is fluid enough to be coated on the aggregates. This requires specialised training and experience to ensure that the activity runs smoothly.
2. Bitumen is a petroleum product, which releases hydrocarbons during its extraction. This causes serious environmental degradation. High heating temperatures also causes various environmental pollution.
3. Various heavy machinery is needed to construct asphalt pavements, even for small road construction. These types of equipments are expensive and requires skilled labour to operate.
4. Improper construction practices / negligence causes pavement to develop cracks and other kinds of deterioration. Extreme care is required for such practices.