Advanced Ceramic Material Finds Use in Potholes
As anyone who drove over it can attest, the roadway on Argonne's Southwood Drive near Building 331 was rough going two years ago. The road contained numerous potholes of various shapes and sizes. Paul Eichamer (then the Ceramicrete Account Manager in Argonne's Technology Development and Commercialization) believed he had a solution: Ceramicrete, a ceramic material that mixes up and can be applied much like concrete.
Eichamer enlisted Ceramicrete developer Arun Wagh and his colleague Seung-Young Jeong, who prepared a batch of Ceramicrete and applied it to several of the potholes.
"The material is easy to work with," said Wagh, "and finishes very much like concrete, using the same tools."
That was in February 1999. The result road patches that have remained in place without shrinking or structural cracking — no mean feat in the Midwest, where winter temperatures and weather conditions wreak havoc with road materials, including those used to patch potholes.
According to Pat O'Malley, Utilities Foreman for Plant Facilities and Services, the patch has supported about 50-100 truck trips over it daily for the past two-plus years. "We aim for it," said O'Malley, referring to the Ceramicrete patch. "We want to drive over it as much as possible to see how well it will hold up." "Ceramicrete is great for this purpose," said developer Wagh, "because it's lighter and more durable than cement and binds well to all types of road material. It also is more impervious to water, which means it holds up well under freeze-thaw conditions."
In fact, when the patches were laid in 1999, temperatures were hovering at the freezing point. The patches went in about 10:00 in the morning and by mid-afternoon, rain was falling and continued for two days. When Wagh checked the patch days later, the only visible evidence of the rain was some tiny indentations where raindrops had fallen on the Ceramicrete before it cured completely. The patches were doing just fine.
But durability isn't the only advantage to using Ceramicrete on potholes.
"Ceramicrete is much faster to use than concrete, for two reasons," says Wagh. "First, it cures in under two hours, even at temperatures below freezing because it has an 'exothermic' reaction, which means it generates heat.
Second, there's no need to trim the edges or clean out the pothole before patching — Ceramicrete sticks to the edges and to any rubble in the pothole." Time also is saved because Ceramicrete is self-leveling, requiring at most only minimal troweling to achieve a smooth surface. Ceramicrete's original purpose was the encapsulation of radioactive and hazardous waste, and it is being considered and tested for that purpose at several Department of Energy sites. Since its early development, however, Wagh and his research team have created various formulations with various properties, and the materials are finding a wide range of additional uses. To date, seven companies have licensed Ceramicrete and research is underway with industrial partners for several other applications. These include building and home construction products, dental material products, and oil well cement products. Ceramicrete also is being used to clean up hazardous and radioactive waste at Department of Energy sites.
Wagh credits TDC with much of Ceramicrete's success in the commercial arena. "The TDC Account Managers — first Jim Gleeson, Don Knight, and Paul Eichamer and now Terry Maynard — have played a strong role in our success with Ceramicrete. This truly has been a team effort."
One of the factors that has helped the team successfully transfer this technology is the availability of samples of the material for testing. "When Ceramicrete began drawing a lot of outside interest, we started getting lots of phone calls asking if the material was available for testing," says Arun Wagh. "We needed some way to handle all of those requests." A call from Wagh to TDC's Paul Eichamer resulted in Eichamer's devising a solution.
"A company can buy a Ceramicrete sample for $10 a pound (minimum 10 pound order) and test it for a particular application," said Terry Maynard. "Through the information on the tech transfer web site, many companies have found out about Ceramicrete and have purchased samples for testing."
For More Information
Companies interested in licensing Ceramicrete should contact Terry Maynard, Technology Development and Commercialization, Argonne National Laboratory,
9700 S. Cass Ave.,