Researchers have developed new “smart compaction” technology that is integrated into road rollers to assess the quality of subgrade compaction in real time. Improved road construction can reduce potholes and maintenance costs and lead to safer, more resilient roads.
Months of heavy rain and flooding have highlighted the importance of road quality, with poor construction leading to potholes and road subsidence. Not only does this lead to flat tires and structural damage to cars and trucks, it also increases the chances of a serious accident.
A research team at the University of Technology Sydney has developed this innovative machine learning technique, which processes data from sensors mounted on construction drums. The research was co-led by Associate Professor Behzad Fatahi, Head of the Department of Geotechnical and Transportation Engineering, Professor Hadi Kahbbaz, Dr Di Wu and PhD student Zhengheng Xu.
“We have developed an advanced computer model that combines machine learning and big data from construction sites to predict the stiffness of compacted soil with high accuracy in fractions of a second, so roller operators can make adjustments, “Associate Professor Fatashi.
Roads consist of three or more layers, which are rolled and compacted. The road base is usually soil, followed by natural materials such as crushed stone, then asphalt or concrete. Variability in soil and moisture conditions can lead to under- or over-compacted material.
“Like Goldilocks, compaction needs to be ‘just right’ to provide the correct structural integrity and strength. Over-compacting can damage the material and change its composition, while under-compacting can lead to uneven settlement,” Associate Professor Fatashi said. .
“A compacted multi-layer roadbed provides a stable foundation and increases the road’s ability to withstand heavy loads. Trucks can weigh up to 40 tons, so a poor quality base can quickly lead to cracks and weak links in the asphalt surface.”
The study was recently published in a peer-reviewed journal engineering structure, show that the application of this technology could help build longer-lasting roads that are better able to withstand harsh weather conditions.
The team is now looking to field test the new technology for a variety of ground and rolling conditions for road, rail and dam construction projects, and explore techniques to measure the density and moisture content of compacted soil in real time during construction.
Materials provided University of Technology Sydney Note: Content may be edited for style and length.