Children

On the mend

Dr. Banthia:Paving the way to the future.Photo: Special Arrangement

Dr. Banthia:Paving the way to the future.Photo: Special Arrangement  

Dr. Nemkumar Banthia has perhaps come up with the most significant finding to tackle the problem that every Indian road faces during the monsoon.

Imagine wading through knee-high water, and traversing what once used to be roads before the rain decided to wreak havoc on them, and reduced them to insignificant, muddy dirt-tracks. Commuting becomes a Herculean task and pedestrians and people on two-wheelers can be seen putting acrobats to shame as they strive hard to manoeuvre vehicles, and not to fall off their two-wheelers into the ponds that the roads have transformed into. While the rains may eventually stop, what it leaves behind is not pretty — dirty, muddy roads. Suffice to say that it is time, effort and money down the drain, but a necessity, nonetheless.

Now, visualise the same rainy season, but with the roads intact despite all the mud, slush and sewer waste that the rain leaves behind. And that’s why Dr. Nemkumar Banthia, an IIT alumnus and a professor of civil engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC) has made the headlines for finding a way to ensure that the road mends itself without any additional costs.

Road so far

Banthia, who moved to Canada 34 years ago, hails from Nagpur. In Thondebavi, a village about 90 km from Bengaluru, he undertook a project of constructing such advanced roads and moulding a better way for the villagers. Working under the Canada-India Research Center of Excellence IC-IMPACTS, where he is a scientific director, Banthia came up with an idea where roads could be constructed at less expensive rates, and would also last longer.

The method involves replacing 60 per cent of the cement fly ash. This helps in reducing the level of carbon footprint as cement production releases greenhouse gases, and increased use of fly ash would lessen the need for cement. Consequently, the thickness of the road is 60 per cent lesser than most other roads.

“There are fibres used which have a hydrophilic nano-coating on them,” he explained in an interview. “Hydrophilia means they attract water and this water then becomes available for crack healing. Every time you have a crack, you always have unhydrated cement and this water give it the hydration capability, producing further silicates which closes the cracks on time.”

Banthia is confident that the roads may last as long as 15 years, which is far higher than the average lifespan of Indian roads.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 6:00:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/On-the-mend/article16314960.ece

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