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Field Study

Discusses the scientific analysis of real-world environments.

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Perpetual Pavement

Perpetual Pavement


Credit: Mark Wolfe
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FEMA_-_20991_-_Photograph_by_Mark_Wolfe_taken_on_12-06-2005_in_Mississippi.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Oh, no! You’re already running late when you run into this on your way to school. A road crew is repairing the pavement and has traffic tied up for blocks.

Why It Matters

  • Does it seem like the roads in your area are always being repaired? Why can’t they make pavement that lasts for decades, rather than ripping out and replacing the entire road every few years?
  • Actually, they can. It’s called perpetual pavement. It doesn’t last forever, but it may last for many decades before it needs to be replaced entirely. All it takes is an occasional new top layer of asphalt. This often can be applied quickly at night so there is little disruption to traffic.
  • Credit: Iwan Gabovitch
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/qubodup/3196569038/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Asphalt is laid down in layers. Here you can see the difference in color of the top 2 layers [Figure2]

  • The best way to test processes and products such as perpetual pavement is in the real world with a field study. In the case of pavement, it is placed on a highly traveled road and monitored to see how well it performs.
  • Watch this very brief video as an introduction to the problems with traditional concrete pavement and the benefits of perpetual pavement: 


Show What You Know

Learn more about perpetual pavement and how it is field tested at the links below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. How is a perpetual-pavement road constructed?
  2. What are the benefits of perpetual pavement?
  3. What are the pros of asphalt pavement as opposed to concrete pavement?
  4. In the Ohio field study of perpetual pavement in the second article above, what were the researchers testing?
  5. How was the perpetual pavement monitored in the field study? What variables were measured and why? How long was the monitoring supposed to continue?
  6. How is the development and testing of perpetual pavement an example of the scope of physical science?

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