Colas UK collaborated with LJMU's Department of Civil Engineering
Colas, part of Paris-based Colas Group, is one of the major players in the UK road surface treatment market, with a global turnover of 12 billion euros (UK turnover £300m). Its main activities are: provision of an integrated range of road construction, maintenance and electrical engineering services/products, together with the manufacture of bitumen emulsions.
Colas wanted to develop an improved microasphalt containing glass fibres with a high early strength (so that roads can be re-opened quickly after repair) long design life, low carbon with high resistance to surface cracking.
Alongside LJMU they created a Knowledge Transfer Project to provide Colas with access to cutting-edge university-based research in the hope this will lead to the development of new materials and an increased market share. The project would also deliver reduced disruption to road networks and communities.
The solution will be a product of known and acceptable performance backed by sound scientific evidence - a cost effective, innovative solution to highway maintenance. The new materials and methods could also benefit of the wider Colas group.
Preliminary work showed that, with the addition of glass fibres, conventional microasphalt mixture can become a Stress Absorbing Membrane (SAM). Rudimentary bending tests also demonstrated enhanced crack resistance.
The involvement of the University and initially Prof Al-Nageim, known for his expertise in this field, will give the results a credibility vital to achieving acceptance from specifiers, supply chain companies, highways authorities and the Highways Agency.
Better understanding of the behaviour of glass fibre/bitumen interaction gained by Colas Ltd through the KTP will be shared with the Colas Campus for Science and Techniques in France so that it may be used for development or improvement of similar or related products worldwide.
LJMU researchers were exposed to a real-live-application of the new materials and, together with the Colas team, optimised the material ingredients, glass fibres and binder contents, to produce new materials. The outcomes of this partnerships were:
- The development of new microasphalt
- Dissemination of project outputs to Colas Research and Development and a technology route map for further exploitation
- A product of a known and acceptable performance for the market with a production process capable of rapid industrialisation
- Sound scientific evidence for the introduction of this solution to highway maintenance
- Training and development of the Associates involved
In January 2015, the Associate, John Kirwan resigned and after some discussion, the project was approved to continue on a ‘finishing-off’ basis. This involved John working part time writing up the lab work to date and LJMU PhD student Atif Rasheed working on new research in the lab.
The project team were confident that the decision to continue will reap rewards and that there is a basis to take a product to market after further field trials. Colas believe that there is a sizable market for the improved product.
“It is believed that the continued collaboration with the university and its eminent Professor Al- Nageim on important research, established by this KTP, will enhance considerably the standing of Colas Ltd in the marketplace. Demonstration of innovative and intelligent engineering to our customers through research and development is often the key to the success of many of the quality bids for major construction contracts.”
Mr John Richardson, Colas
“Engaging university researchers with Colas industrially experienced staff provided a concrete basis on which this project started and was successfully run to achieve outstanding results. Very exciting environment of collaborations waved all the marks of the hard time executed on the project and left the nice results of success which the UK and international society will certainly enjoy and that is in the heart of the KTP objectives.”
Professor Hassan Al Nageim Project Academic Director
Atif Rasheed, former associate on the KTP now Lecturer in Civil Engineering at LJMU
“Working as KTP Associate for 6 months while working towards my PhD was hard work and having two associates on the project isn’t ideal, however, we found a way to make this work for Colas, which led to it to being deemed a ‘Good’ project by the Local Management Committee. My experience on this project, and subsequent years working for the Highways Agency certainly helped me to be considered for my current position and we’re now working on another KTP project with Colas for which I’m the Co-Investigator.”
This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base. This successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.