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Asphalt lab paves way for breakthrough transportation, infrastructure research

An asphalt sample.

Investments from the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association, the university, the Barton family and the state will allow Mizzou Engineering to provide a world-class asphalt materials education while performing research into the next generation of flexible, sustainable materials to solve critical transportation problems. Photos by Ryan Owens.

The first step in building a quality educational program in asphalt and pavement technology for the MU College of Engineering was to get a renowned expert in the field. The College, thanks to support from the late alumnus Glen Barton and the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association, did just that when Bill Buttlar was hired as the Barton Chair of Flexible Pavement Technology. Step two for the partnership between the College and MAPA was to provide the infrastructure needed for students to get a world-class experiential education.

Check.

The MAPA-sponsored lab is now up and running and was installed as part of the recent Lafferre Hall renovation project. The lab, along with an existing on-campus lab and two additional labs at Discovery Park in Columbia, is the centerpiece of the Missouri Asphalt Pavement and Innovation Laboratory, or MAPIL.

The investment of MAPA, the Barton family, the university and the state in asphalt research resources has allowed MAPIL to become one of the most comprehensive asphalt programs in the world and will allow Mizzou Engineering to provide a world-class asphalt materials education while performing research into the next generation of flexible, sustainable materials to solve critical transportation problems.

A monitor located in a lab workstation.

The new instructional facility and lab includes the latest resources, including asphalt binders, mixture testing equipment and much more.

“In addition to research and testing, MAPIL will help deliver undergraduate and graduate asphalt and pavement courses and will develop and offer continuing education programs for the asphalt community,” Buttlar said.

“For asphalt to be taught here, you need to have the infrastructure of the lab. When we were negotiating to bring the professor on board, we saw the need to get new equipment here, so our members decided to make another contribution to get the equipment,” MAPA executive director Dale Williams said.

The new instructional facility and lab includes the latest resources, including asphalt binders, mixture testing equipment and much more.

“The lab features cutting-edge binder tests, such as advanced dynamic mechanical analysis capabilities, and mixture tests, including new cracking, fatigue and rutting devices,” Buttlar said. “The lab has been designed and staffed to support research stemming from local, state and federal agencies, while being able to respond to time-sensitive industry testing needs.”

Breakthroughs that help our roads last just a little longer and hold up a little better to wear and tear could help save Missouri taxpayers money while improving driving conditions.

“The state has 36,000 miles of roads, and if we can make the roads last even 10 percent longer and multiply that by the number of roads, it could be huge savings for the taxpayers of Missouri,” Williams said.