For Mashable, I'm Lauren Gores. Pothole's on plain roads for long enough. At least that's what a group of students at Case Western Reserve University thought when they put a new spin on silly-putty. The five inventors won a science and engineering competition by creating a short-term fix to the campus's pothole problem.
Their invention uses non-Newtonian fluids, the weird substances act both like a solid and a liquid, depending on how much force they are under. Some of the fluids move like liquid until they're compressed, which is why these folks can walk on it without sinking. Silly-putty is just one example. Others include paint, ketchup and just plain cornstarch and water. You can probably already guess how this applies to potholes. When water that seeped into the road freezes and expands, it breaks up the asphalt. When that soft pavement gets run over by a car, it breaks in crumbles.
The students' specially-designed fluid fills in the pothole then turns rigid when cars pass over it. The team's formula is top secret while they're still trying to get it patented. To test their invention, they put the fluid in special bags, filled in a nearby pothole and laid a black adhesive cloth over it. The bag held up for a week of testing, and the students say they should be sturdy enough to last several weeks.
It's not meant to be a permanent fix, but more like a stop-gap. One of the students tells Science, "The fluid filled bags can be carried around in the trunks of police cruisers or vans and dropped into potholes on the spot by employees with little training or experience."
For winning their competition, the students got nine thousand dollars and encouragement to start selling their pothole patches. They've already been approached by several companies, talked about "throwing your money down the hole." From Mashable, I'm Lauren Gores.