Coffee Time Challenge
Tackling cracks head on
Filling cracks in the road can be both hazardous and time consuming to the workers involved. How can this be done better?
We have all been there. Driving down the road, minding your own business and then 'thwack!?' You hit a pothole. Depending on where you live and how much the road is used, it might be there for a few hours or a few years.
Potholes are caused by cracks forming in the road, into which water seeps and then freezes. As the water expands, this pushes the top layer of tarmac up and creates a hole. The trouble is it usually has to turn into a relatively large problem before anyone fixes it. And when potholes are fixed, it can be a time consuming, and dangerous process, with workers having to work alongside fast-moving vehicles.
It is estimated that poor roads cost British motorists £2.8 billion every year in burst tyres and suspension damage, with authorities paying out £50 million every year to the motorist as compensation for poor road maintenance.
The challenge this month, then, is to come up with a way of quickly and easily repairing road cracks before they spread in to something worse. Your device should be easily operated, with minimal personnel and be able to cover a lot of road per day.
Unless you have an inspiring leader and take a leaf out of the film 'Cool Hand Luke', it is unlikely road resurfacing productivity can be increased using people alone. Therefore the solution should be an automated systems mounted or integrated within a vehicle. However, the object of the exercise is also to make this a cost effective process so simplicity, and off-the-shelf components are a must.
The key to success is likely to be the speed at which a crack can be detected and then filled, so manually identifying the holes is a far from the ideal solution. While a purpose-built vehicle might be optimal, remember to keep costs down and make any device easy to deploy and at a relatively low cost to councils.
The solution is surprisingly elegant and is largely an integration exercise involving an array of sensors and some clever software to allow it to be deployed on the move. When you see the solution, you may consider it obvious. In the meantime, see if you can come up with anything better.
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Coffee Time Challenge Entries
Surely the solution would be to invent a road surface that doesn't crack the issues seem to be permeability and crack resistance. Has anybody investigated fibre reinforce road surfaces? I can feel a patent coming on!!
many years ago I suggested to some manufacturers that the pothole problem coud be tackled by having small trucks fitted with a orbiatl grinding head to root out t ehole and then have it filled from a cargo of ready to use tarmac.
each pothole - say about one metre by half could be fixed in about half an hour.
no-one is interessted as road repairs are big profitable biz.
In an effort to keep things simple, how about implementing a technique that any handyman would employ when filling cracks in walls and floors at home - spread sealant on the cracked and fissured surface, use flexible filling knife to force sealant into cracks and smooth off. In the case of a roadway, the sealant could be applied usign a set of nozzles which cover the width of the carriageway that the repair vehicle is travelling down and a flexible 'blade' located just behind the nozzles would apply downward pressure to force the sealant into cracks and fissures in the road surface. Excess sealant collected on the front of the blade could be 'sucked' back up into a separate tank for cleaning and filtering and re-use. Even quite large potholes could be filled this way, the repair vehicle would just have to travel a slightly slower. To make this a more effective and automatic procecure, a camera could scan the roadway ahead to detect the size of approaching potholes and this could be used to automatically control the speed of the vehicle and also to decide which nozzles to activate to only cover the affected road surface and not the entire width.