National Highways will be trialling the use of graphene as part of a road surface on the A1 in Northumberland this month.
The government-owned company, formerly Highways England, said that using the material could see the operational life of key road features extended by a number of years.
Graphene is the name for a single sheet of carbon atoms, arranged in a honeycomb pattern. It is the building block of graphite — pencil lead — and is a very strong, conductive and flexible material. It can be used in a wide range of applications, from aerospace engineering to digital electronics and biomedicine.
National Highways asset needs manager Graeme Watt said: ‘This is an exciting time for National Highways. We are constantly striving to improve the journeys of our customers and graphene has real potential to do that.
‘Laboratory trials have been a success and the on-site trials in Northumberland will be a world first use of graphene in road production, which enforces our commitment to innovation and helps to push the industry towards more carbon-friendly maintenance with longer-lasting solutions which we all benefit from.
‘Graphene’s benefits are industry-changing. It’s stronger than steel and adding it to other materials can turn them into super materials. From what we’ve seen so far, it could make some of our assets last significantly longer.’
National Highways is carrying out the trials with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester and Pavement Testing Services.
The ‘revolutionary resurfacing’ will take place along three miles of the northbound carriageway of the A between Newton on the Moor and West Cawledge, south of Alnwick, from 19 September to 1 November.
National Highways will also be resurfacing both carriageways of the A1 between Purdy Lodge and Detchant, although this work is not part of the graphene trial.
Graphene has previously been used in roads in Italy.