Foamed Asphalt: How It’s Being Used as an Environmentally-Friendly Alternative

Foamed asphalt offers an alternative to traditional asphalt repair that saves money and labor and reduces traffic disruption. Pavers and road builders know that asphalt isn’t a perfect material for original paving or repair. The service life of asphalt is less than 20 years, which means asphalt roads under heavy use are in ongoing, perpetual repair. The volume of existing material removed during repair is substantial, necessitating heavy truck usage that impedes regular traffic. Recycling asphalt, however, has traditionally proved to be less than ideal in most real-world scenarios.

Foamed asphalt provides an alternative that incorporates the economic and environmental benefits of recycling with the added value of expediting and simplifying the repair project. While traditional asphalt road repair often requires the removal of up to 10 inches of existing material—and the accompanying large volume of truck traffic to dispose of it—foamed asphalt requires milling off as little as two inches of roadway material to facilitate application of the repair.

Creating foamed asphalt is a refined, proven process, perfected by contractors for several large state transportation departments. Existing asphalt taken from the roadway is pulverized and mixed with new liquid asphalt. When water’s added, the mixture foams, much like a soft drink or beer, and expands. A small content of Portland cement is also included in the formula. The final product is a cold mix material, requiring little energy and creating almost no greenhouse emissions. It also simplifies application, as workers don’t have to be concerned with hazardous 250-degree melted asphalt.

Foamed asphalt can be applied by existing paving equipment. In one project, use of this recycled material reduced associated truck traffic by 80 percent. Current bids for road repair utilizing foamed asphalt have been reported to be less than one-half the cost of standard asphalt repair. The low cost makes the method especially attractive to local municipalities that have historically overlaid deteriorating roads due to the high cost of repairing the existing surface with conventional methods.

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