Though the problem may seem a minor visual blight, the impact is great: heavy trucks barreling down unpaved roads are at greater risk of rollover from unstable ground. The potential ecological impact from such an accident can be enormous with nearby lakes and streams and wildlife suffering.

The Challenge

Winnipeg-based Cypher Environmental was determined to put an end to the choking dust clouds on unpaved roads seen every day across rural and Northern Manitoba. Those dust clouds create unsafe driving conditions, especially for heavy-haul vehicles that service mines, quarries and major construction projects.

The Solution

With support from Mitacs, Cypher developed an innovative solution, called EarthZyme, that leverages the unique properties of clay in environments with a high natural clay content in order to “glue” the loose gravel so it behaves more like a cement road. However, before marketing EarthZyme, Cypher needed to test its durability and quantify exactly how well it works.

Enter Brandon University graduate student and Mitacs intern Riley Cram. Cram tested a new method of constructing stabilized roads that can be applied to gravel roads in Canada using EarthZyme polymers.

The Impact

The technique is proving to be revolutionary in the field of road stabilization. Cram’s internships provided Cypher with access to key resources and research for product development, resources that would have otherwise been inaccessible to the company. The result is that companies and municipalities could save millions of dollars in maintenance and environmental clean-up every year — while making roads safer and protecting nearby ecosystems.