Q&A: Cedric Vuye on quiet asphalt

Summary

Professor Cedric Vuye is leading a project in Antwerp that is testing the best type of "quiet asphalt" to use in urban environments

Changing lives

As part of Antwerp’s Noise Action Plan, the districts of Wilrijk and Zandvliet are guinea pigs in a study concerning the best type of “quiet asphalt” to use in an urban environment. The research, led by professor Cedric Vuye, is being conducted by Antwerp University and the Belgian Road Research Centre and is supported by the government of Flanders.

What is quiet asphalt, and what makes it different from normal asphalt?
There are three readily available kinds of quiet asphalt. Stone mastic, the most common of the three found in Flanders, is very durable and has a finer texture. This creates a smoother road surface, reducing traffic noise. Porous asphalt has open pores that absorb sound and change sound energy into very low heat. And, finally, thin asphalt (with a maximum thickness of three centimetres) has even smaller granulates, and therefore an even smoother texture, and in some cases some porous properties.

How will the research at the pilot sites be carried out?
Two test tracks will be built in Antwerp to test three types of thin asphalt. The goal is to see if existing mixtures that are already used frequently in the Netherlands can be applied in an urban environment, and if they produce the necessary noise reduction without shortening the life of the road surface too much.

Measurements will be taken for two to three years. Every six months, the sites will be acoustically tested for degradation in sound reduction, caused by wear and tear on the road’s surface. Surveys will be conducted with residents to correlate the answers with the acoustic test results. We want to find out which thin asphalt gives the best noise reduction for the longest period of time, making it both cost-effective and practical.

How could this change people’s daily lives?
A study by the World Health Organization in 2011 showed that nearly one million years of life are lost each year in Western Europe due to high stress levels, sleep disturbance and even heart disease, caused by noise pollution. But noise action plans, stemming from the European Noise Directive of 2002, are having a positive effect, as the number of people in Belgium disturbed by traffic noise dropped from 35 to 26% between 2001 and 2013. Research into quiet asphalt increases the lifetimes not only of our road surfaces but of our residents, too.