About that road you’re driving on…

Asphalt starts out as a very hot goo. As it cools, it becomes hard (so we can drive on it), but also, somewhat brittle. Potholes begin as tiny cracks in the hardened surface of asphalt, due to traffic vibrations and the weight of heavy vehicles. These cracks allow water and ice to penetrate the asphalt surface and accelerate its degradation. The end result? Potholes. A materials science team at a university in the Netherlands has come up with a solution: They have mixed tiny metal fibers into hot asphalt before it is laid by a road crew. Then, when cracks first begin to appear, a truck with a powerful induction coil is driven over the roadway. In the same way an induction stove heats a metal cooking pan, the metal fibers in the asphalt are heated by the coil, re-softening the asphalt and closing up the cracks—vastly extending the life of the roadway.

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