Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology are investigating ways to use rubber and resin from the guayule plant to help pave roads.
The researchers from Missouri S&T are trying to determine if guayule can be used as a source of renewable and environmentally friendly material in the production of flexible pavement mixtures.
Flexible pavement, or asphalt, is used to pave about 93 percent of the roads in the United States. That means 5.3 million miles of roads in the U.S. are paved with asphalt.
“The prospect of developing a new and better product for highway construction makes this research both exciting and important,” says Dr. David Richardson, associate professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T. “The project will evaluate new ways to reduce our need for crude oil products in future road construction.”
Richardson and Mike Lusher, senior research specialist at S&T, are leading the university’s efforts. They are working with representatives from Yulex Corp., which develops natural rubber materials from the guayule shrub for use in medical products and green energy production.
According to the researchers, guayule has the potential to replace petroleum-based products that are currently used for highway construction. They say it could help decrease dependency on foreign oil and lower costs.
The two-year study is funded in part by a national cooperative highway research program called Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis. Other partners include the National University Transportation Center in Rolla and the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association.