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National Highways is set to trial the use of graphene, a material only one atom thick, in a world first as part of its road surfacing to see if it prolongs its lifespan.

It if is successful, the use of the high-tech product could see the operational life of key road features extended by several years. In turn, this will reduce the frequency of roadworks as well as making road journeys smoother and more reliable.

The revolutionary resurfacing is set to take place on the A1, along three miles of the Northbound carriageway between Newton on the Moor and West Cawledge, South of Alnwick, from 19th September 2021 to 1st November 2021.

National Highways Asset Needs Manager Graeme Watt said: “This is an exciting time for National Highways. We are constantly striving to improve the journeys of our customers and graphene has real potential to do that.  

“Laboratory trials have been a success and the on-site trials in Northumberland will be a world first use of graphene in road production, which enforces our commitment to innovation and helps to push the industry towards more carbon-friendly maintenance with longer-lasting solutions which we all benefit from.

Graphene’s benefits are industry changing. It’s stronger than steel and adding it to other materials can turn them into super materials. From what we’ve seen so far, it could make some of our assets last significantly longer.”

Graphene is the name for a single sheet of carbon atoms, arranged in a honeycomb pattern. It is the building block of graphite — pencil lead — and is an incredibly strong, conductive and flexible material. It can be used in a wide range of applications, from aerospace engineering to digital electronics and biomedicine.

National Highways is carrying out the trials with the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC)) at the University of Manchester and Pavement Testing Services (PTS).

To carry out the resurfacing safely and efficiently, the northbound carriageway will be closed 24/7, with traffic running in a contraflow, one lane in each direction, on the southbound carriageway. A number of crossovers will be closed and clearly signed diversions will be in place.

National Highways will also be resurfacing both carriageways of the A1 between Purdy Lodge and Detchant, although this work is not part of the graphene trial.

Work is set to start on Monday 13th September 2021 and is has a completion date of Wednesday 3rd November 2021. It will then be followed by sign replacement until the end of the month. Work will take place overnight Monday to Friday 8pm to 6am.

During the essential maintenance, which will give road users a safer, smoother journey, various traffic management measures will be  in place including full closures of the A1, junction closures and traffic being controlled by temporary lights and then taken through the work area by convoy.

Clearly signed diversions will be in place.

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