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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 15 April
PRESENTER
MIRIAM O'REILLY
Miriam O'Reilly
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Thursday 15 April  2004
Miriam O'Reilly
Miriam searches for the perfect road.

Building a Better Road

Bouncy, quiet, rubber roads ripply, bobbly safer roads and pollution-munching, air-cleansing smart roads. Tonight’s ‘Costing the Earth’ searches for the road of the future. Can we make them safer, quieter and greener?

The government’s revised road-building plans promise more lanes for our motorways and threaten by-passes for historic towns like Hastings and Salisbury. The noise and pollution of major highways is spreading inexorably from the city to the countryside. At the same time we’re buying more four-wheel drive vehicles. Their inefficient engines spew out more pollution whilst their wide tyres make much more noise on the road.

But Europe’s scientists and engineers may have the answers. The Netherlands is one of the continent’s most densely populated countries- few people live far from a major road. In response the government held a competition, challenging road-builders to come up with the quietest practical surface. Ard Kuijpers came up with two fresh ideas- he put a rubber surface under the tarmac and built resonators into the concrete foundations which turn the sound energy into heat.

In Italy Dr Dimitris Kotzias is working on a road surface which actually neutralises traffic pollution. He has developed a titanium-oxide coating for roads, pavements and walls. It allows ultra-violet radiation from the sun to turn nitrogen and sulphur oxides into oxygen and a dust which disappears in the next rain shower.

Meanwhile at the Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire Greg Watts is working on safer roads. His Rippleprint makes an unholy row inside the car, forcing drivers to wake up and slow down. Unlike sleeping policemen and traditional rumble strips they make no additional noise outside the car so Rippleprint is useable in urban and residential areas.

Miriam O’Reilly tracks down the perfect road and asks how long we’ll have to wait before we can drive on it.
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