Aug 9, 2022 - News

Iowa makes roads out of soybeans and recycled asphalt

A photo of asphalt.
Check out this soy-based road test site later this month at the Farm Progress Show in Boone. Photo courtesy of SoyLei Innovations

A soy-based asphalt technology discovered by accident last year at Iowa State University will be nationally available for commercial use next year.

Why it matters: It could save consumers and governments big money.

State of play: A misunderstood and incomplete lab experiment resulted in the breakthrough, Austin Hohmann, an ISU graduate student, said in a university news release.

  • Researchers, who have been testing the product for roughly a decade, recently launched SoyLei Innovations, which is developing the rejuvenator product.

How it works: "Invigorate Rejuvenator" is a compound made of soybean oil that is mixed with recycled asphalt.

  • It changes the molecules in the reused material, triggering chemical reactions that restore balance in its composition and makes pavement constructed with it more durable.

By the numbers: Rejuvenator can reduce paving costs by as much as 80% compared to projects that use new materials, Eric Cochran, a chemical and biological engineering professor at ISU, said.

  • Each acre of its pavement uses thousands of pounds of soybean oil.

Of note: The technology works best in lower-traffic projects like recreational trails, driveways and parking lots, Cochran said.

  • It could also be cheaper for many rural roads projects, he said.

Go see it: A nearly one-acre test site will be on display at the Farm Progress Show in Boone from Aug 30.-Sept 1.

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