Potholes. Crews are out now tamping new asphalt into the pockmarks that winter leaves on our roads, but what if there were a cheaper, easier way to quickly mitigate these wheel-eating voids? Students at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University may have the answer. In April, the team took first prize in a competition sponsored by Saint-Gobain, a global materials company. The goal was to use simple materials for an out-of-the-box product.

"We were like, what's a common, everyday problem all around the world that everybody hates?" said team member Curtis Obert, explaining how they decided to tackle potholes. Obert and four of his classmates figured the best way to solve the problem of potholes is to fill them with a fluid.

Wait, doesn't that just make a puddle? Not when you use a non-Newtonian fluid. Newtonian fluids are always runny, while non-Newtonian fluids behave differently in response to shear. This is why a kevlar bag filled with "oobleck," a non-toxic goop, won the prize. Oobleck is shear-thickening; sudden application of force causes the fluid to behave like a solid, supporting the weight of an automobile as a wheel rolls over it. Otherwise oobleck acts like you'd expect a bag of water to behave, conforming to the contours of the pothole and presenting a level surface.

The solution has been road-tested, though more actual winter testing is needed, and the cost upfront may not be any cheaper initially than traditional repair methods. The bags are faster, more portable and reusable, so long-term cost savings are there. Instead of waiting for the road crew, a police officer who rattles his cruiser through a divot can pull a bag out of the trunk and temporarily fix the issue with a solution that's biodegradable. While there's more work to be done, several companies are naturally interested in this elegant and potentially revolutionary solution. Scroll down to watch the testing video.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 25 Comments
      Nick Allain
      • 2 Years Ago
      If you put a gps chip in these you could have the locations of all the potholes.
        The Wasp
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick Allain
        I think it would be cheaper stuff the potholes full of money.
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Wasp
          I wanna fill a pothole with pennies and test that out now.
      lovemye36
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like something kids would steal for fun.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      joe shmoe
      • 2 Years Ago
      best way is still the midnight fill of quikrete and asphalt. dial 311 and report .
      Stephen
      • 2 Years Ago
      The bag is cool, but I assume the black piece of fabric or whatever cover he laid down on top of it was just to keep people from swerving around it for the purpose of the video?? I feel like grabbing that thrown in place cover when you're on your brakes... particularly when you're one a motorcycle... would cause a problem. That being said, potholes are generally always a problem when trying to stop or turn on a motorcycle so I guess either way its gonna suck.
      Paulevalence
      • 2 Years Ago
      what happens if you park on it? or if you are in stop and go traffic and have to stop on it? do you sink?
      thedriveatfive
      • 2 Years Ago
      Man the title mislead me, I thought this would be about students filling a hole with pot.
      InstantSupercar
      • 2 Years Ago
      Interesting concept, but what if there's a traffic jam and the weight of a car is sitting on the bag. But the property described, the bag should burst..... Still, I like the quick fix aspect of this.
        turbomonkey2k
        • 2 Years Ago
        @InstantSupercar
        Why would a kevlar bag burst?
        Daniel Dudek
        • 2 Years Ago
        @InstantSupercar
        The bag is designed to hold the fluid in place when there is no shear force applied and to assist in keeping the shape of the fluid when shear force is applied. The non-Newtonian fluid itself should be able to support the majority of the shear force when a car is sitting on it. There shouldn't be much need to worry about the bag bursting, but I imagine it will wear out over time and the Kevlar thread will no longer hold much of the fluid.
        InstantSupercar
        • 2 Years Ago
        @InstantSupercar
        I meant "by the property described".....
      Jeremy Pennini
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like the Bag failed @0:42
      Agilis
      • 2 Years Ago
      This oobleck substance is simply a mixture of water and cornstarch. Like others have said, if a car's tire is sitting on this liquid in traffic, the liquid will not remain a solid and would sink into the hole. I appreciate the young minds but this stuff just would not work in my opinion. Perhaps for a temporary solution, but not a long term solution.
      ROLO
      • 2 Years Ago
      100 cars in a day ..... this prooves nothing fill a pothole and it will last more than a day lol
      4gasem
      • 2 Years Ago
      Saint Gobain owns Norton Abrasives and also made the windows in my Holden Commodore (Pontiac G8). VERY big company!
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