A team of researchers at Monash University are using automated 3-D printing to make Australian roads more resilient to extreme weather events and lowering maintenance costs using eco-friendly materials.

The Smart Pavements Australia Research Collaboration (SPARC) is developing materials, technology and techniques to reduce that cost by up to $300 million per year.

Road surfaces could be laid out and maintained with state-of-the-art ground penetrating radar, soil testing and intelligent compaction technology, and sensors could even be embedded into road surfaces to help guide connected autonomous vehicles. Management of the whole network could be optimised using big data and cloud computing.

Roads are Australia’s largest publicly-owned infrastructure with around $7 billion per year to maintain them, the highest per capita rate of maintenance expenditure in the world. 

Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, joined Monash Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Senior Vice-President Professor, Rebekah Brown, and industry representatives at the interactive SPARC Showcase at Monash College in Melbourne where researchers demonstrated the innovations, advancements and skill enhancements now under development.

Ms Brown said SPARC is a great example of universities working together with industry and government to address what is a national and global challenge – making road networks more resilient, cost effective and environmentally sustainable.

“The breadth of research and innovation underway in this area is extraordinary. Together they offer a vision of the future that will revolutionise the way we construct, maintain and manage our roads. It’s just another example of how Monash research seeks to address big challenges for the benefit of people and the planet,” Ms Brown said.

SPARC, funded by the Australian Research Council, is a collaboration of eight Australian universities; Monash University, Curtin University, Queensland University, RMIT University, Swinburne University, University of New South Wales, University of the Sunshine Coast and University of Technology Sydney.

The universities are joined by 20 industry partners and seven international research centres across 42 research projects.

From Monash’s Department of Civil Engineering, SPARC Director Professor, Jayantha Kodikara, said at SPARC they are working to transform the transport pavement industry to make roads smarter, longer lasting, safer and more economical, with a lower environmental footprint.

“The cost of maintaining our roads is only going to rise as the population increases and climate change brings more extreme weather, making future proofing Australia’s road network an urgent priority,” Mr Kodikara said.

Monash has secured more than $100 million in research income annually from industry, representing about 20 per cent of the University’s research income, and more than any other university in Australia.

Feature image (L-R): Federal Minister For Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon Catherine King MP and Monash Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Research) and Senior Vice-President Professor Rebekah Brown at the SPARC Showcase. Image supplied by Monash University.

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