SoilTech: A Third Generation Polymer Stabilizer For Road Construction

Nick Muller, CEO – Polymer Pavements, South Africa
Polyroads distributes its entire range of Smart Materials including its flagship SoilTech Mk. III stabilizer for road construction, through its local partner Kaveri Ultra Polymers in India. “This year, the company is going to have its permanent office in the country to serve its clients in a better way and grab maximum opportunities coming from the road infrastructure development sector,” discloses Nick Muller, CEO – Polymer Pavements, South Africa, in an interview with Maria R.

How do you analyze the growth prospects of construction related industries in India in view of increased focus on infrastructure development?
India, with 1.2 billion people, is the sixth largest economy in the world with an average growth of 7% in the last 10 years. With growth comes the need for greater infrastructure such as roads, ports, schools, hospitals, etc. According to Minister of Road Transport & Highway, Mr. Nitin Gadkari, the Indian Government had finalized road contracts worth $80 billion, by the end of December 2016. Naturally, this investment will lead to more employment, especially semi-skilled labour, in construction related industries, which is very important. Aggregate, cement, machinery and tools suppliers will all be given a huge boost. This is good for the economy all round.

Please brief us on the products Kaveri is offering for infrastructure and construction and how do you see the market for such materials in India?
Kaveri distributes the entire range of Smart Materials of South Africa-based Polyroads in India. However, over the last 10 years, the main focus has been on the flagship Smart Material, namely SoilTech Mk. III stabilizer for road construction. SoilTech MK. III polymer stabilizer has been deployed and utilized in the most diverse conditions globally. Successes have been achieved utilizing in-situ materials from the tropical Democratic Republic of the Congo to the desert in-situ materials in the Middle East. We are optimistic that SoilTech will work with most of the materials and soils in India, with very little or no modifications of materials required. The conventional design of layered works in road construction is more than 100 years old, with very little or no change in design. Smart Materials are an enabling technology that allows for a redesign of pavement layers, creating a stronger and longer lasting road, not to mention, a more cost-effective road.

Panipat Jalandhar Highway

What about the sustainable features and applications of your Smart Materials for road construction?
Conventionally designed roads, require substantial imported materials from borrow-pits or quarries to provide road layers with the required strength to handle traffic volumes and loads. Current aggregate consumption in India has reached unsustainable levels. Late Dr. L.R. Kadiyali (Proprietor L.R. Kadiyali & Associates), a well known expert on roads & transportion sector, made a statement that India consumes enough aggregate to build a road around the world, every year, six meters wide by 600mm deep. This is a frightening statistic and definitely unsustainable.

SoilTech Mk. III is a Smart Material binder. It is an environmentally certified product that minimizes the use of imported materials, as in many instances the insitu materials will suffice for stabilization, without the need to import materials. SoilTech will bind the insitu base-layer material and then migrate into the sub-base via capillary action and will form a second semi-bound sub-base layer. So the need to import quality aggregate, in most cases is negated. SoilTech Mk. III polymer is definitely a serious alternative to be considered for road stabilization.

The conventional design of layered works in roads construction is more than 100 years old, with very little or no change in design. Smart Materials are an enabling technology, that allows for a redesign of pavement layers, creating a stronger and longer lasting road, not to mention, a more cost effective road.

How is it economical in making roads more durable?
SoilTech is a purposely-designed material for road stabilization. In many instances, in-situ materials that would normally be classified as waste materials, can be used for road construction. The elastomeric nature of SoilTech eliminates the need for multiple support layers in the road design. Layered work is reduced, thereby speeding up the construction process and reducing costs. SoilTech does not become brittle when cured. SoilTech stabilized material will absorb heavy vehicle traffic and flex under load. The high elastic moduli in SoilTech Mk. III polymers, ensure the longevity of the road, with minimum maintenance.

Typically, SoilTech stabilized roads will realize a cost saving of approximately 20% in comparison to conventional cement stabilized roads. Construction time can be reduced by up to 50% in some instances, Table 1.

Table 1: Case History of NH-1, Panipat -Jhalandhar; Km 96.000 TO 387.000 in the State of Haryana & Punjab
Description Test Results of Borrow Soil with SoilTech Mk. III Test Results of Borrow Soil  after blending with 0.5%  SoilTech Mk. III
Resilient Modulus (Mpa) 154 3264
Unconfined Compressive Strength (Kpa) 423 1868
California Bearing ratio 18.56 218
Is it suitable for concrete roads' base as well?
Indeed. We have several sites that are now more than seven years old in Bangalore, where the base was treated with SoilTech Mk. III polymer binder, to a depth of 150mm and then sealed with a concrete slab. Inspection on these sites in 2016 showed zero defects after seven years, with zero maintenance during this period.

The use of SoilTech Mk. III elastomers enables one to reduce the concrete slab thickness, and thereby, reduce construction time, and materials costs which all lead to a more cost-effective pavement design.

How is Polyroads promoting its Smart Materials to its developers, contractors etc, in India?
India's road authorities have been very progressive in comparison to many other countries. Minister Nitin Gadkari has acknowledged the need for high-tech stabilization technologies, in order to achieve his goal of constructing 100km of road per day. Kaveri /Polyroads are in talks with National Highway Authorities, PMGSY, and CRRI. Furthermore, Polyroads has acquired a database of all consulting engineering companies in India and is systematically distributing information packs to them on Smart Materials for road stabilization and typical road designs using these products. Briefing consulting engineers on our Smart Materials is of paramount importance. Obviously, the engineers cannot know about all the products in the international market, so it is up to us to inform them.

The illustrative Table 2 shows the benefits of utilizing SoilTech Mk. III in the construction of one kilometer of road (5.5 meters wide), by reducing construction time, man hours, machinery costs and aggregate consumption.

SoilTech is a purposely-designed material for road stabilization. It is an environmentally certified product that minimizes use of imported materials. The elastomeric nature of SoilTech eliminates the need for multiple support layers in the road design, thereby reducing construction time and materials costs, and ensures longevity of the road with minimum maintenance.

Table 2
Description Requirements of conventional crust Requirements of SoilTech Alternate Design Total Savings
      Qty % Savings
Construction time in days 28 18 10 36
Man Power (Man Days) 784 468 316 40
Machinery (Hours) 224 140 84 38
Aggregate (Cum) 3317 1578 1739 52
Bitumen (MT) 58 29 29 50
Please tell us about Polyroads R&D wing?
SoilTech Stabilized Concrete road at a Gated community in BangaloreSoilTech Stabilized Concrete road at a Gated community in Bangalore
Polyroads Research & Development organization was founded to interface and combine the expertise of leading international chemical companies through technology sharing and collaboration agreements. Polyroads R&D is specifically targeted at the development of elastomeric material binders for the construction industries. This includes technologies for road stabilization, wearing course seals for roads, non-cementitious material binders for factory floors, road kerbs and pavements.

SoilTech has been used in India for more than 10 years, and has been tried and tested by various authorities including the Indian Road Congress, I.I.T Kharagpur and the National Highway Authorities of India. In 2009, Professor Alex Visser from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, designed a 10 MSA road for India, based on the I.R.C 37 standards.

Have your materials been used in extreme road environments?
Yes, our Smart Materials were originally developed for heavy haul roads on open cast mines, where operations are 24x7. Haul roads have no wearing course seals, as the weight of the haul trucks will simply destroy any conventional blacktop seal. SoilTech & ClearTech, Smart Materials are used at Orapa diamond mine in Botswana, where 300 ton haul trucks operate non-stop on Smart Material stabilized roads, in both wet and dry weather. The dirt roads have no wearing course seals. ClearTech elastomer spray-on seals, prevent the roads from becoming slippery or soft in the rain. California Bearing Ratios in excess of 300 has been recorded on the SoilTech Mk. III stabilized roads. This is an extreme environment. These 300 ton two-axle haul trucks will crush any conventional highway within weeks.

In view of the government's ambitious target of constructing 40km per day, what opportunities do you see for your company?
Kaveri is already well-entrenched and positioned to assist the Indian government in achieving these goals. We are currently in discussion with consultants on two NHAI roads. Furthermore, we are at an advanced stage of negotiation with PMGSY on several hundreds of kilometers of road. Smart Materials will certainly speed up road construction time and improve service delivery to the community. Once engineers are duly informed as to the characteristics and performance benefits of Smart Materials, we can expect an increase in road designs using our technology.

SoilTech Stabilized road & parallel Asphalted road

Road and Highway minister Nitin Gadkari has acknowledged the need for high-tech stabilization technologies to achieve his goal of constructing 100km of road per day. Kaveri/Polyroads are in talks with National Highway Authorities, PMGSY, CRRI and all consulting engineering companies in India to systematically distribute information packs to them on Smart Materials for road stabilization and typical road designs using these products.

Would you like to tell us about your current presence in the country and future plans to further strengthen your distribution network?
Through Kaveri Ultra Polymers, we have a footprint in the major cities of India, which include Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi. For the past five years, every alternate month, an engineer from Polyroads, South Africa, has visited India for support and promotions. A permanent Polyroads office will be established in India this year.
NBM&CW March 2017
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