The majority of road construction in India is using bitumen, a viscous and thick substance which is the byproduct of refining petroleum products. Due to cost-effectiveness and sturdiness, use of bitumen for road construction in India is greatly popular.
Excellent properties of Bitumen
Since it is a durable and long-lasting option, Indian roads prefer bitumen for paving the uppermost layer. It can take stress effectively if superior quality material is used. Experts say that bituminous binder and aggregates of stone are two critical components that determine the strength and flexibility of the road. Asphaltic bitumen is the costliest and the best bitumen for high-quality construction of roads.
Demand versus supply
It is estimated that the average demand of bitumen is more than 4 million metric ton as of now, and cost of bitumen contributes to almost half of the total cost of construction. Since bitumen is a petroleum product which is diminishing day by day, the production may drop further in the coming years. As there is an increasing trend in the demand of bitumen for road construction in India, the gap will become wider. Researchers and scientists are finding out an alternate solution for it. However, not a major success has been achieved so far. Construction of concrete roads is an alternative, but there are cost implications and practical difficulties in it. There have been experiments regarding the use of plastic waste in constructing roads. Moderate success has been achieved so far, but it will take a lot of time to make it practical.
Rutting is a universal issue
Not only in India, but it is a big issue worldwide. Since bitumen softens at 60 to 70 degree Celsius, heavy vehicles cause rutting on the surface. Eventually, the upper layer of the road becomes uneven and bumpy. Nowadays, higher quality bitumen is being used for constructing highways and other busy roads. It shows higher strength and sustainability at the temperature of 60 to 70 degree Celsius. High viscosity grade material brings long-lasting performance and durability in the hot climate. Ac-30 or AC-40 grade material is the best bitumen for road construction in India, as per expert recommendation.
Bitumen characterization or grading is a complex scientific process where many criteria are checked. Ageing characteristics, rheological tests and penetration tests are some of the popular tests. They assist in determining the quality of bitumen.
Future of roads in India
The bitumen emulsions in India are important material for construction of roads. Even today, most of the Indian roads are tar build. Concrete roads are yet to gain momentum in the country, especially since IRB Infrastructure a leading road construction company in India has taken over the road development in the country. Virendra Mhaiskar IRB Infrastructure MD has a vision to rebuild India’s roads and highways to the highest standards.