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Clay-based product can reduce road maintenance costs

Myron Love
Clay-based product can reduce road maintenance costs

There are three factors involved in building a great road, notes Hamid Mumin, a geology professor at Brandon University (BU), the first phase involves engineering and testing. The next step is assembling the clay, aggregate and polymers. The actual construction of the road is the final part.

Five years ago, Mumin was approached by Cypher Environmental, a company based in Winnipeg, with a research opportunity to investigate the synergies between the properties of Manitoba clays and the stabilization effects of EarthZyme. The now 10-year-old firm is not only offering local clients with high-quality dust control and soil stabilization, but now also has several local research based examples of roads to demonstrate its effectiveness in the Manitoba region.

“For years, Cypher Environmental has been applying its EarthZyme product on mining haul roads and reducing dust as well as general maintenance costs in many different parts of the world,” Mumin explains.  “They were applying their unique and environmentally friendly stabilization product in situ to stabilize gravel and clay based roads.”

Although successfully providing their products and services throughout the Canadian landscape, as well as in over 30 countries worldwide, Cypher continues to increase their market presence within Canada and Manitoba. Mumin and his team of researchers are currently researching the effects of EarthZyme and other agents under local conditions, including the application to civil road construction in Canada. For example, they are applying the product to road bases that require the incorporation of clay into the road aggregate.

 “This provides a great opportunity to engineer and control the process at each stage. We work directly with local contractors and materials, trying different combinations,” he says.   

Mumin and his team – including BU geotechnical specialist Riley Cram – determined that the right type of cohesive and reactive of clays provides increased compaction and superb binding strength when used with EarthZyme polymers and catalysts in the appropriate manner.  The product is laid down up to 8” thick on existing roadbeds and compacted into a smooth stable surface.

Mumin notes that the cohesive clay acts as a cementing agent.  The product, he adds, retains a level of plasticity. It is less likely than cement or asphalt to crack or break. And, if it does crack, it can self-heal due to its inherent ductile properties. 

The research involved testing the product on a series of gravel roads in the rural municipality of Cornwallis just east of Brandon. The trial was successful. Over five years, reports Cypher Environmental’s  research and development vice-president Teaghan Wellman, the reconstructed heavy traffic haul roads have eliminated near daily maintenance by reducing it to a standard once yearly procedure. With the use of EarthZyme, the use of salt and toxic chemicals to suppress road dust becomes obsolete.

“The test roads have already exceeded our expectations and have maintained quality through a five year period; outperforming the original roads and significantly reducing maintenance costs,” she says.

She reports that the company is in negotiations with several rural municipalities, including the Municipality of Springfield, Man., to introduce EarthZyme into rural roads as well as those leading to and from quarries in the area. Another potential client has been the City of Winnipeg.

 “We have had delegations from across Canada as well as overseas visiting here to learn about Earthzyme and study our results,” Mumin reports.

“We are continuing our research and innovation efforts and are always striving to improve the quality and effectiveness of our applications.”

The partnership between Cypher Environmental and Brandon University was facilitated by NSERC-IRAP and MITACS, a Canada-wide non-profit organization supporting research-based innovation that brings together industry, academia and government.


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