Civil engineering

How to knit a road

Researchers find a way to make roads with string

 




May 8th 2021 | words 570


SINCE THE Romans began doing it with great panache more than 2,000 years ago, road-building has been a sweaty, grubby business, involving heaving great quantities of rocks and stones into place and, in more recent times, covering the surface with asphalt or concrete. Now a group of Swiss researchers think they have come up with a more elegant solution. Strange as it may seem, this involves knitting.


panache



panache / pn; pn-; NAmE also -n /

noun [U]

the quality of being able to do things in a confident and elegant way that other people find attractive

SYN flair , style 



grubby


grubby / grbi / 

adj. (grubbier, grubbiest)

1. rather dirty, usually because it has not been washed or cleaned

grubby hands / clothes   / 

-- note at dirty 

2. unpleasant because it involves activities that are dishonest or immoral

SYN sordid 

a grubby scandal   


asphalt


asphalt / sflt; NAmE -flt / 

noun [U]

a thick black sticky substance used especially for making the surface of roads

 




Martin Arraigada and Saeed Abbasion of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology use a robotic arm to lay out string in a series of elaborate patterns. As the knitting takes shape, layers of stones are added and tamped down. The string entangles the stones, keeping them in place. The result is a structure that is surprisingly stable and strong. In one experiment a section of pavement put together in this way withstood a load of half a tonne. The encapsulated stones hardly moved at all.


lay out somethinglay out (something)


1.to arrange something.

First the pictures are approved by the editor, then the designer lays them out on pages.

2.to plan or explain something very carefully and in great detail.

Plans for the ceremony were laid out so well that everyone knew what they were to do.Let's review the points one more time before we lay them out for the press.

3.to spend money.

I can't believe he laid out $100 for flowers and $150 for two bottles of wine!


tamp


tamp / tmp / 

verb [VN]

~ sth (down) to press sth down firmly, especially into a closed space

 


entangle


entangle / intgl / 

verb [VN] [usually passive] 

1. ~ sb / sth (in / with sth) to make sb / sth become caught or twisted in sth

The bird had become entangled in the wire netting.  

2. ~ sb in sth / with sb to involve sb in a difficult or complicated situation

He became entangled in a series of conflicts with the management.  

 

She didn't want to get entangled (= emotionally involved) with him.  


encapsulate


encapsulate / inkpsjuleit / 

verb [VN]

~ sth (in sth) (formal) to express the most important parts of sth in a few words, a small space or a single object

SYN sum up 

The poem encapsulates many of the central themes of her writing.   

to completely cover (something) especially so that it will not touch anything else





Roads and pavements are usually made from layers of different grades of sand, gravel and stones. Once these are in place the surface is treated with an aggregate that is sealed and bound together with cement to form concrete, or mixed with bitumen to make asphalt. Neither method is environmentally friendly. Making cement produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide, while bitumen, a sticky tar-like substance, is obtained from oil.


gravel


gravel / grvl / 

noun [U] small stones, often used to make the surface of paths and roads : a gravel path     a gravel pit (= a place where gravel is taken from the ground)   


bitumen


bitumen / bitmn; NAmE btumn; -tju- / 

noun [U] 

1. a black sticky substance obtained from oil, used for covering roads or roofs

2. (AustralE, informal) the surface of a road that is covered with tar 

a kilometre and a half of bitumen   


tar


tar / t(r) / 

noun [U] 1. a thick black sticky liquid that becomes hard when cold. Tar is obtained from coal and is used especially in making roads.

2. a substance similar to tar that is formed by burning tobacco 

(),

low-tar cigarettes   



Knitting roads creates fewer emissions. And the stones and string are easily recyclable, says Dr Arraigada. The group tried various materials for the string, settling eventually on recycled textiles reinforced with polyester, a type of plastic. Polyester resists rotting and can also be recycled, although the group hope to find biological materials which can do the same job.


They got the idea of knitting roads from work carried out by the Gramazio Kohler architectural research group at ETH, a university in Zurich. In one of this groups projects, led by Gergana Rusenova, now at Swinburne University of Technology, in Australia, a Stonehenge-like structure with 11 columns was built in a similar way. A mobile robot, which moved on caterpillar tracks, laid down 120km of string in geometric patterns while 30 tonnes of crushed stones were added. The resulting three-metre-high columns comfortably supported a nine-tonne capping stone.



Stonehenge


Stonehenge / stunhend; NAmE stoun- / 

noun [sing.]

a circle of stones built on Salisbury Plain, England, by people during the Stone Age . When the sun rises on 's Day">Midsummer's Day , the light forms a straight line through the centre.

(,



There is, though, some way to go before knitted roads become a commercial proposition, cautions Dr Arraigada. He and his colleagues are testing various set-ups and modelling on a computer how different patterns of string can be used to hold the stones. They will then carry out more testsincluding ones that apply the sorts of rolling pressure generated by the wheels of moving vehicles.


Concrete and asphalt road surfaces are usually impervious to water, and are shaped so that rain flows off them into gutters running alongside. If water gets caught in surface cracks, it can cause potholesespecially if it freezes and thereby expands, opening up more cracks. Binding aggregates with string would produce a permeable road surface, which might result in fewer potholes. It might have other advantages, too. The researchers think, for example, that a porous road could help water reach the subsoil below, reducing the impact that covering so much land with roads has on local hydrology. Just like knitting a nice cardigan, success will depend on starting with a good pattern. 



impervious


impervious / impvis; NAmE -prv- / 

adj. 

1. ~ to sth not affected or influenced by sth

impervious to criticism / pain   

/ 

2. ~ (to sth) (technical ) not allowing a liquid or gas to pass through

an impervious rock / layer   

/  

impervious to moisture   


gutter


gutter / gt(r) / 

noun 

1. [C] a long curved channel made of metal or plastic that is fixed under the edge of a roof to carry away the water when it rains

: a blocked / leaking gutter   

/ 

2. [C] a channel at the edge of a road where water collects and is carried away to drains 

3. the gutter [sing.] the bad social conditions or low moral standards sometimes connected with the lowest level of society

():

 She rose from the gutter to become a great star.   

 

the language of the gutter (= used when swearing)   

()


pothole


pothole / pthul; NAmE pthoul / 

noun 1. a large rough hole in the surface of a road that is formed by traffic and bad weather

()

2. a deep hole that is formed in rock, especially by the action of water

 


permeable


permeable / pmibl; NAmE prm- / 

adj. 

~ (to sth) (technical ) allowing a liquid or gas to pass through

The skin of amphibians is permeable to water.   

 

permeable rocks   

 

OPP impermeable 


porous


porous / prs /

adj. 

having many small holes that allow water or air to pass through slowly

porous material / rocks / surfaces   

//



hydrology


hydrology / haidrldi; NAmE -drl- / 

noun [U]

(technical ) the scientific study of the earth's water, especially its movement in relation to land

 


cardigan


cardigan / kdign; NAmE krd- / (NAmE also cardigan 'sweater)

noun 

a knitted jacket made of wool, usually with no collar and fastened with buttons at the front

() 







\n

Economist | Knitting a road with stones and string



Civil engineering

How to knit a road

Researchers find a way to make roads with string

 




May 8th 2021 | words 570


SINCE THE Romans began doing it with great panache more than 2,000 years ago, road-building has been a sweaty, grubby business, involving heaving great quantities of rocks and stones into place and, in more recent times, covering the surface with asphalt or concrete. Now a group of Swiss researchers think they have come up with a more elegant solution. Strange as it may seem, this involves knitting.


panache



panache / pn; pn-; NAmE also -n /

noun [U]

the quality of being able to do things in a confident and elegant way that other people find attractive

SYN flair , style 



grubby


grubby / grbi / 

adj. (grubbier, grubbiest)

1. rather dirty, usually because it has not been washed or cleaned

grubby hands / clothes   / 

-- note at dirty 

2. unpleasant because it involves activities that are dishonest or immoral

SYN sordid 

a grubby scandal   


asphalt


asphalt / sflt; NAmE -flt / 

noun [U]

a thick black sticky substance used especially for making the surface of roads

 




Martin Arraigada and Saeed Abbasion of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology use a robotic arm to lay out string in a series of elaborate patterns. As the knitting takes shape, layers of stones are added and tamped down. The string entangles the stones, keeping them in place. The result is a structure that is surprisingly stable and strong. In one experiment a section of pavement put together in this way withstood a load of half a tonne. The encapsulated stones hardly moved at all.


lay out somethinglay out (something)


1.to arrange something.

First the pictures are approved by the editor, then the designer lays them out on pages.

2.to plan or explain something very carefully and in great detail.

Plans for the ceremony were laid out so well that everyone knew what they were to do.Let's review the points one more time before we lay them out for the press.

3.to spend money.

I can't believe he laid out $100 for flowers and $150 for two bottles of wine!


tamp


tamp / tmp / 

verb [VN]

~ sth (down) to press sth down firmly, especially into a closed space

 


entangle


entangle / intgl / 

verb [VN] [usually passive] 

1. ~ sb / sth (in / with sth) to make sb / sth become caught or twisted in sth

The bird had become entangled in the wire netting.  

2. ~ sb in sth / with sb to involve sb in a difficult or complicated situation

He became entangled in a series of conflicts with the management.  

 

She didn't want to get entangled (= emotionally involved) with him.  


encapsulate


encapsulate / inkpsjuleit / 

verb [VN]

~ sth (in sth) (formal) to express the most important parts of sth in a few words, a small space or a single object

SYN sum up 

The poem encapsulates many of the central themes of her writing.   

to completely cover (something) especially so that it will not touch anything else





Roads and pavements are usually made from layers of different grades of sand, gravel and stones. Once these are in place the surface is treated with an aggregate that is sealed and bound together with cement to form concrete, or mixed with bitumen to make asphalt. Neither method is environmentally friendly. Making cement produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide, while bitumen, a sticky tar-like substance, is obtained from oil.


gravel


gravel / grvl / 

noun [U] small stones, often used to make the surface of paths and roads : a gravel path     a gravel pit (= a place where gravel is taken from the ground)   


bitumen


bitumen / bitmn; NAmE btumn; -tju- / 

noun [U] 

1. a black sticky substance obtained from oil, used for covering roads or roofs

2. (AustralE, informal) the surface of a road that is covered with tar 

a kilometre and a half of bitumen   


tar


tar / t(r) / 

noun [U] 1. a thick black sticky liquid that becomes hard when cold. Tar is obtained from coal and is used especially in making roads.

2. a substance similar to tar that is formed by burning tobacco 

(),

low-tar cigarettes   



Knitting roads creates fewer emissions. And the stones and string are easily recyclable, says Dr Arraigada. The group tried various materials for the string, settling eventually on recycled textiles reinforced with polyester, a type of plastic. Polyester resists rotting and can also be recycled, although the group hope to find biological materials which can do the same job.


They got the idea of knitting roads from work carried out by the Gramazio Kohler architectural research group at ETH, a university in Zurich. In one of this groups projects, led by Gergana Rusenova, now at Swinburne University of Technology, in Australia, a Stonehenge-like structure with 11 columns was built in a similar way. A mobile robot, which moved on caterpillar tracks, laid down 120km of string in geometric patterns while 30 tonnes of crushed stones were added. The resulting three-metre-high columns comfortably supported a nine-tonne capping stone.



Stonehenge


Stonehenge / stunhend; NAmE stoun- / 

noun [sing.]

a circle of stones built on Salisbury Plain, England, by people during the Stone Age . When the sun rises on 's Day">Midsummer's Day , the light forms a straight line through the centre.

(,



There is, though, some way to go before knitted roads become a commercial proposition, cautions Dr Arraigada. He and his colleagues are testing various set-ups and modelling on a computer how different patterns of string can be used to hold the stones. They will then carry out more testsincluding ones that apply the sorts of rolling pressure generated by the wheels of moving vehicles.


Concrete and asphalt road surfaces are usually impervious to water, and are shaped so that rain flows off them into gutters running alongside. If water gets caught in surface cracks, it can cause potholesespecially if it freezes and thereby expands, opening up more cracks. Binding aggregates with string would produce a permeable road surface, which might result in fewer potholes. It might have other advantages, too. The researchers think, for example, that a porous road could help water reach the subsoil below, reducing the impact that covering so much land with roads has on local hydrology. Just like knitting a nice cardigan, success will depend on starting with a good pattern. 



impervious


impervious / impvis; NAmE -prv- / 

adj. 

1. ~ to sth not affected or influenced by sth

impervious to criticism / pain   

/ 

2. ~ (to sth) (technical ) not allowing a liquid or gas to pass through

an impervious rock / layer   

/  

impervious to moisture   


gutter


gutter / gt(r) / 

noun 

1. [C] a long curved channel made of metal or plastic that is fixed under the edge of a roof to carry away the water when it rains

: a blocked / leaking gutter   

/ 

2. [C] a channel at the edge of a road where water collects and is carried away to drains 

3. the gutter [sing.] the bad social conditions or low moral standards sometimes connected with the lowest level of society

():

 She rose from the gutter to become a great star.   

 

the language of the gutter (= used when swearing)   

()


pothole


pothole / pthul; NAmE pthoul / 

noun 1. a large rough hole in the surface of a road that is formed by traffic and bad weather

()

2. a deep hole that is formed in rock, especially by the action of water

 


permeable


permeable / pmibl; NAmE prm- / 

adj. 

~ (to sth) (technical ) allowing a liquid or gas to pass through

The skin of amphibians is permeable to water.   

 

permeable rocks   

 

OPP impermeable 


porous


porous / prs /

adj. 

having many small holes that allow water or air to pass through slowly

porous material / rocks / surfaces   

//



hydrology


hydrology / haidrldi; NAmE -drl- / 

noun [U]

(technical ) the scientific study of the earth's water, especially its movement in relation to land

 


cardigan


cardigan / kdign; NAmE krd- / (NAmE also cardigan 'sweater)

noun 

a knitted jacket made of wool, usually with no collar and fastened with buttons at the front

() 







\n

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