How we extended Circular Economy to road construction
A more environmentally-friendly fluxing agent
Answering the road paving industry’s wish for greener and safer technologies, Solvay has launched a product that answers just those needs, combining sustainability and efficiency like no other fluxing agent on the market.
Fluxing agents are a necessary ingredient in road construction: they momentarily lower the viscosity of the bitumen (i.e. to make it less sticky), to improve ease of use. They are used in a wide range of road construction techniques.
Mineral fluxing agents generally have a mediocre Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) profile, and their greener equivalents tend to be plagued with lower efficiency. “That’s why InnRoad™ Protect is a differentiating product,” explains Julie Catteau-Mollet, Marketing Director at Solvay’s Novecare Industrial Process Solutions, which provides chemicals for the industrial sector. “We’ve used our chemistry to develop a fluxing agent with better application properties than all the others on the market, while having a better HSE profile. We bring our customers the best of both worlds”.
Resource efficiency and the Circular Economy
Let’s take a look at what makes InnRoad™ Protect both more efficient and more environmentally friendly. First of all, its increased fluxing power means customers don’t have to use as much of it: up to 20% less than with traditional fluxing agents.
It also has a well-balanced evaporation profile: once the fluxing agent is applied on the road, it will not immediately start to evaporate, making for improved usability during roadwork. And it will not take days to fully evaporate from the bitumen. The binding power (what makes the road strong and allows it to last for many years) brought by the bitumen between the aggregates is acquired more quickly. This brings significant side benefits: roadwork is quicker and can be carried out over a longer season (road construction stops when it gets too cold), maintenance is diminished, as the roads are more resistant at from an early stage.
“This means the road can be put back in use faster,” explains Arnaud Bourdette, New Business Development Manager at Solvay Novecare Industrial Process Solutions. “To picture the benefits of InnRoad™ Protect, you can use the image of building a house. The increased cohesion at a young age of the roadwork is the equivalent of strengthening the foundations of your house. So there are immediate benefits and long-term ones, too.”
Finally, all the REACH testings done on the product show it has no labelling to date. So it is also safer for workers and all the people around the roadwork. What’s more, it’s also better for the planet: it emits less fumes when used, and it’s biodegradable.
Last but not least, another innovative aspect of this product resides in the two main raw materials it uses. “One is biosourced, coming from sugar beets,” continues Arnaud. “The other is a byproduct of polyamide manufacturing provided by Solvay’s polyamide business. So it’s also a direct application of the principles of the circular economy.”
One of the main ingredients of InnRoad Protect™ is a byproduct of polyamide manufacturing, so it’s a direct application of the principles of the circular economy.
Open innovation, greater opportunities
InnRoad™ Protect is also an application of another concept dear to Solvay in the way the Group conducts business: open innovation. It is the fruit of a partnership with Eurovia, the road construction subsidiary of French construction conglomerate Vinci. “The project stemmed from Eurovia’s request for a product with a positive Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) profile in the long term, not just in its production and application, but throughout the road’s lifetime: from gate to grave,” says Julie.
The two companies started working on the development of this new category of fluxing agent in 2015, and were awarded the 2017 Grand Prize of Vinci Innovation to celebrate such a successful collaboration. “There were over 1,800 projects in competition, so we were very proud to win,” adds Julie.
Today, Solvay’s innovative fluxing agent is still in its rollout phase – with a new award in its pocket from French Federation of Publics Works (FNTP). In situ tests have been carried out by Eurovia – about 35 kilometers of roads have been laid down using it in various regions of France – and there are interested customers in several countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand.
InnRoad™ Protect is set to travel a long way…