Scientist uses sunflower oil to cook up pothole prevention

pothole prevention

Inspired by a cooking technique demonstrated on the Spanish version of Masterchef, Dr Alvaro Garcia, from the Nottingham Transportation Engineering Centre (NTEC), was inspired to use microcapsules of sunflower oil to create self-repairing road surfaces.

As cracks appear in the road surface, tiny capsules break open to release oil, which has the effect of softening the surrounding asphalt. This helps the asphalt bond back together.

Describing the self-healing ‘Capheal’ treatment, Garcia explains: ‘Our preliminary results showed that the capsules can resist the mixing and compaction processes without significantly reducing the physical and mechanical properties of asphalt and they also increased its durability. More importantly, we found that the cracked asphalt samples were restored to their full strength, two days after the sunflower oil was released.’

The Netherlands and Switzerland have previously developed self-repairing roads that use metal fibres, but these require a large, expensive and energy intensive induction heater to pass over the road while it is closed to other traffic.

What makes a vintage year for potholes?

Other than under-investment in roads, the conditions required for a vintage year include  heavy rainfall that leaves the ground saturated with water. As the ground dries out, the tarmac has a tendency to crack – freezing temperatures do little to help. When water enters a crack in the road surface and freezes it expands and forces apart the road surface.

Potholes are an inconvenience to motorists because over time they can result in damage to a vehicle’s wheels, tyres and suspension, but to cyclists and motorcyclists they represent a potentially dangerous risk. Because of this, repairs are often carried out in haste and the pothole re-appears.

Pothole damage to bicycles

Cyclists can insure themselves against damage caused by potholes. Cycle insurance from the ETA includes cover against accidental damage (including at race events), personal accident, a breakdown service for cyclists and much more. Find out more the insurance also includes free advice from an expert legal team should you need it.

Pothole prevention

Over recent decades, the government at town, county and government level has failed to invest in well-engineered road surfaces. The first thing to do when you encounter a pothole is to use one of the many reporting websites in order to alert the local authority, who are bound in law to deal with the most serious road defects within 24 hours. Three examples are fixmystreet (, fillthathole ( or (

In theory it is possible to claim compensation for damage or injury sustained as a result of a pothole or road defect, but in practice this can be a convoluted process and a payout is not guaranteed. A good cycle insurance policy will pay for accidental damage of this type.


  1. Geoffrey Cherry


    There is a lot of work done for cyclists to keep them safe, yet nothing for the disability scooter user, that is the only method of transport to keep our independence we by the idiot laws have to use the duel carriage way at 8 mph with amber flashing light to be legal, the cyclist at higher speed has a cycle track, that we are not allowed to share although most are wide and mostly lightly used in the countryside, and using them would not cause a problem, on the main road the cycle track is marked by a continues white line, mobility scooter users are by law not allowed on that, and have to travel in the road with cars, lorries, buses, the lot, I have sent e-mails to government, national and local, road safety, the lot, all ignored, some of them should try driving along the busy rod with large heavy transport,

  2. whobiggs


    Surely a road that releases oil will be slippery and dangerous? Even sunflower oil on the kitchen floor is a serious hazard.

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