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Efficiency

Smart Construction Materials - The history of tarmac

Alice-India Garwood
by Alice-India Garwood on March 5, 2019

Tarmac roads are so much apart of our daily lives they are hardly worth mentioning. But, it wasn’t all that long ago that a happy accident changed the face of road construction forever and left us with the smooth and durable road ways we have today.

Before 1901 roads were made with crushed stones, tyres would puncture and bad weather would create mud and ruts. This made roads completely treacherous for drivers. Before cars this was not so much of a problem but with the increased manufacture and ownership of cars, something needed to change.

Introducing Tar Macadam, or Tarmac.

Tarmac, Bobtrade, Construction, Materials[Photo Credit: Burtn]

"With the increased manufacture and ownership of cars, something needed to change. That change was Tar Macadam."

Now you probably think the inventor of Tarmac was the Scottish John McAdam. Whilst he was involved in the evolution of roadway construction - he invented the method of creating roads out of crushed stones - he isn’t responsible for the crucial innovation that made these materials stick. That was Edgar Hooley.

Edgar Hooley was an innovative man, in the right place at the right time.

In 1901, whilst working as a surveyor for Nottinghamshire County he noticed a stretch of road which seemed smooth in appearance. On further investigation it became clear that this road’s properties were different to others.

Hooley spoke with locals and discovered that there had been a tar spillage on the road and to cover the mess they had used waste slag.

This happy accident marked the start of a bright future for road construction.

Tarmac, Bobtrade, Construction, Materials[Photo Credit: History in Photos]

"Hooley spoke with locals and discovered that there had been a tar spillage on the road and to cover the mess they had used waste slag."

In 1902 Hooley patented the process of heating tar, adding slag and breaking up stones to add to the mixture creating a smooth road surface.

In 1903 the first tarmac road in the world was Radcliffe Road, Nottingham.

1903 was the same year that Tar Macadam Syndicate Ltd was formed and Tarmac became a registered trademark.

"In 1903 the first tarmac road in the world was Radcliffe Road, Nottingham."

Tarmac, Bobtrade, Construction, Materials[Photo Credit: Liverpool Express]

Sadly for Hooley he was not a natural businessman and the company was later sold to MP of Wolverhampton at the time, Sir Alfred Hickman. Hickman owned a steelworks which produced slag used in tarmac production.

The Tarmac company relaunched in 1905 and was an immediate success. The company still runs today after a massive buyout in 1999.

It’s not a long story but the history of tarmac is certainly iconic.

Tarmac, Bobtrade, Construction, Materials[Photo Credit: Banana Republic]

But, what is next for tarmac and road construction?

Arguably graphene is the most talked about construction material in the world right now. This super strong and impossibly thin material is making waves in construction. We’re seeing its applications in concrete and asphalt already so there is nothing to say that this miracle material couldn’t be used to reinforce tarmac roads.

It’s an exciting glimpse in to the future of smart materials and construction.

Other news in the construction industry include our Online Building Supplies Marketplace - Bobtrade.com - currently running on closed Beta. Check it out and sign up for early access you too.

Bobtrade.com - the new online building supplies marketplace

Tags: Efficiency

AUTHOR
Alice-India Garwood

Alice-India Garwood

Content Marketing Executive at Bobtrade. Interested in design, sustainability and the history of construction. I love all things indie and theatrical.