College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

R. Christopher Williams awarded utility patent for asphalt materials production method

Civil, construction and environmental engineering professor uses Iowa agricultural products to create bioasphalt

Asphalt materials affect everyone in the country, from the roads we drive on to the airports we fly out of. Producing the materials is a complicated process with many variables, one of which is the use of oil-based materials. Though asphalt production typically uses crude petroleum as one of the variables, researchers at Iowa State joined forces to develop biorenewable materials.

Chris Williams
Chris Williams

Civil, construction and environmental engineering professor and Gerald and Audrey Olson Professor in Engineering R. Christopher Williams is part of a team of Iowa State researchers that has developed a method to create bioasphalt.

The research team, which also included Robert Brown, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering, director of Iowa State’s Bioeconomy Institute and the Gary and Donna Hoover Chair in Mechanical Engineering, and graduate student Sheng Tang was awarded a United States utility patent for this method on April 15, 2014.

The method uses cellulosic feedstock for producing a bio-oil that is subsequently upgraded to a visco-elastic material like that of asphalt.

“Through this collaboration, we produced a bioasphalt that can partially replace asphalt without compromising performance, and it is economically viable,” Williams said.