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Canadian technology used for building roads in rural India

DECEMBER 16, 2015


UBC technology building roads in rural India

   (Bottom ash is formed in coal furnaces. It is made from agglomerated ash particles that are too large to be carried in the flue gases and fall through open grates to an ash hopper at the bottom of the furnace).

  The Canadian researchers who touted so-called "bottom-ash concrete" as the solution to Canada's rural infrastructure needs have used the technology for the first time in rural India.

   IC-IMPACTS, a federally funded India-Canada research initiative, developed the technology at a laboratory at UBC. The concept uses leftover ash that collects at the bottom of coal-burning power plants - a major pollutant in India - to create highly durable concrete for roads and other structures.

   Ashish Mohan, communications manager for IC-IMPACTS, said the first road using "bottom-ash concrete" was completed in Thondebavi, India, on Oct. 6 after a month of construction. Researchers will now monitor the road for a year to see if the material fits performance projections. Theoretically, such a road should last 15 years longer than conventional rural roads.

   "At the end of the day, new technologies like these, they need extensive work to be incorporated," Mohan said. "If, after monitoring for a year, we can show the results...that we've reduced a certain amount (of maintenance costs and pollution), then we can bring it back into Canada."

  The road is a test of the infrastructure technology as well as environmental and water-quality concepts. Researchers said the ultra-thin road not only reduces the amount of actual concrete used, but also creates more run-off rainwater, which is then collected, treated, and used at a local hospital.

   The road has already drawn the interest of officials from the province of Karnataka (where Thondebavi is located), who said they are interested in incorporating the technology into highways throughout the region, which has a population of 61 million.

   Since its establishment two years ago, IC-IMPACTS has taken on 29 projects with experimental technologies, such as vacuum ultraviolet water filtration and water-treatment membranes. The initiative has received $30 million in funding from the federal government, industry and university sources.

   Mohan said there is a misconception that their research is solely for projects in India. He noted their water-treatment projects are already operational in three rural B.C. communities (including two First Nations) and depend on what concepts work best in which situations.

   Bottom-ash concrete, for example, could play a role in rebuilding Canadian transportation infrastructure, Mohan said, and researchers will be looking for potential applications after seeing the results in Thondebavi.

   "A lot of people live in the urban environment, so when you say infrastructure and roads, they think, 'Oh, it's totally fine here,'" he said. "But they don't actually see the roads in a First Nations community. This matters in Canada just as much as it matters in India."

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