New research has presented a method using used tyres to protect bridge infrastructure in disaster-prone regions.
The research, published in journal Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics, was undertaken by academics from the universities of Surrey and Thessaloniki (Greece) who looked at how bridges, in particular integral abutment bridges (IABs), react to stress.
The study also looked at how simple measures could be taken to protect bridges from general deterioration, as well as in the event of extreme dynamic impacts such as earthquakes.
The challenge for the researchers was to find an inexpensive and effective material to bolster bridges, providing support but also providing a buffer able to withstand the force of earthquake situations regardless of the length of the bridge. The team turned to conventional tyres, of which 50M are discarded in the UK alone each year, and which were banned from the UK’s landfills in 2009. The waste tyres will be used to create a new product, called the isolator – a flexible and elastic layer of reused tyres. This flexible layer will be used to absorb movements, reducing costs of repair.
“As with many of the challenges we face in engineering, the answer came from an unexpectedly simple source,” explained lead author Stergios Mitoulis of the University of Surrey. “We were looking for a readily available, cheap and effective material that would keep its cool under pressure. That’s when we thought about the possibility of recycling common tyres and putting to good use a material destined for landfill.
“We use old tyres to create an aggregate that effectively provides double the performance of conventional designs when movements due to earthquakes or temperature changes are simulated.”
According to the researchers, the new design will eventually allow for safer and sturdier bridges in areas that do not have the means to erect expensive structures that require extensive maintenance.
The team will now look for new market opportunities in diverse infrastructure assets that are expected to benefit from these recycled isolators, including quay and retaining walls and building foundations.