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Pig manure paves road to sustainable asphalt – Science Nation

Pig manure paves road to sustainable asphalt – Science Nation


♪MUSIC♪ MILES O’BRIEN: Visit a pig
farm, and you will see and smell for yourself, one of a pig
farmer’s biggest headaches is dealing with the mess. DANIEL OLDHAM: We generate 43
billion gallons of swine manure in the world every year. MILES O’BRIEN: Which is not to
say all this waste has to go to waste. Civil engineer
Ellie Fini sees opportunity in pig manure — like a
road stretching out in front of her. ELLIE FINI: Typically, you see
asphalt used on the road — the black gooey, you know, sticky
things on the road, that’s made from petroleum. So this material
we’re making is a new product made out of pig manure which
we have a lot of it in the United States. MILES O’BRIEN: Fini says pig
waste is particularly rich in oils that are very much like
petroleum, too low grade to make gasoline, but maybe just right
for where the rubber meets the road. With support from the
National Science Foundation, she and a team at North Carolina
Agricultural and Technical State University are making a sticky
binder out of pig manure. ELLIE FINI: And we call it
bioadhesive. ACACIA HINES: This process is
only 56 cents per gallon to process. So, very low cost, high
impact! MILES O’BRIEN: Mix it with some
rocks and you get asphalt. Nanoengineer Daniel Oldham says
it’s critical this new material is just as durable as the
asphalt used on roads now. So they’re putting these samples
through some rigorous tests. DANIEL OLDHAM: Imagine a car,
traffic driving on top of this putting on a load. We want to
know if this thing is going to fall apart when this car comes
on top of it, or if it’s going to be so hard that when a
car goes on top it will actually form cracks. ELLIE FINI: It simulates the
truck traffic going back and forth, like 20-thousand passes.
We tested. Is it going to rot too much, like sagging? It
shouldn’t rot and also it shouldn’t crack at low
temperatures. MILES O’BRIEN: So far the tests
have been a success, so much so that Fini and partners have set
up a company called Bio-Adhesives Alliance. DANIEL OLDHAM: This actually
passed DOT specs… MILES O’BRIEN: Down the road,
they hope to see their asphalt everywhere raw materials are
abundant. DANIEL OLDHAM: In Chile, there
was a hog farm that was living near a village, and they had so
much manure that their manure was spilling over into the
people’s water supplies. So they were literally drinking the
stuff and they were getting sick. China has ten times the
amount of manure we do. So I mean if we can take that
manure away, you know, and process it and get something
valuable out of it, then this could really make a difference. ELLIE FINI: We think it’s
scalable and cost-wise, it’s profitable. Our vision is to
help the farmer and help the construction industry, both
sides. We see a win-win approach in the solution. MILES O’BRIEN: Swine
bioadhesives. Before you poo-poo this as a stinky idea,
rest assured, the smelly stuff is filtered out during the
processing. The farmer can even use the leftovers as fertilizer.
The idea smells like a rose to me. Figuratively, anyhow. For Science Nation,
I’m Miles O’Brien.

Comments (6)

  1. This is just good news. It is using a natural resource to reduce petroleum products while creating roads that society needs. This is a win-win-win solution. Plus it produces a usable fertilizer for farmers, whether or not it is a commercial farmer or a backyard vegetable patch. Congratulations to the folks doing this!

  2. Great discovery!

  3. i wonder if the manure could still be used for this process after it has been through a biogas digester?

  4. I wonder if they are using this method yet??? Probably not if it has anything to do with the petroleum company…great idea though!

  5. we have so much of this stuff, if this works well we will have good roads and clean rivers.

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