Arthur R. Whale and Multigrade Asphalt

(Special thanks to Arthur Whale for providing this account.)

The Attorney: Arthur R. Whale, Class of 1956, is honored to admit association with this patent on a landmark invention that has eased many miles of travel on wheels. The pleasure was the greater because the clients were my partners all the way -- both trusting and trustworthy.

We recognized at the outset that this was an invention of great commercial potential. Accordingly, the case was drafted to illustrate the distinctions between historic practices and those underlying the invention. Prosecution in the Patent Office was vigorous and included an interview with the examiner, in which one of the inventors participated. A desktop test model was left with the patent examiner to show comparative flow characteristics of Multigrade and conventional asphalt cement over time. The examiner later reported favorable observations, all issues of patentability were finally resolved, and the patent was granted. Broad and successful foreign filing likewise met with success.

As for me, I received a B.S. in chemical engineering from Northwestern University. Following graduation and a tour of the Pacific arranged by the U.S. Navy, I embarked on a satisfying career as a chemical engineer. However, ever since I could hold a quill pen I had been interested in writing. So my last years as an engineer were spent with the Navy Department's Bureau of Ships in Washington, which happened to afford convenient proximity to law schools. For some reason, I selected George Washington University Law School, where I spent my evenings pursuing a career that would combine my interests in technology and writing. (I soon found that my decision to attend GW law school was the best I could have made, particularly in view of its intellectual property curriculum.)

Soon after graduation, I began a career as a corporate patent lawyer, spending 10 wonderful years each with The Upjohn Company (patent attorney), The Dow Chemical Company (section head), and Eli Lilly and Company (general patent counsel). After retirement from Lilly, I joined Baker & Daniels, a major Midwest law firm within sight of my old Lilly office, as of counsel. Here, since 1987, I have enjoyed a new kind of patent practice that has been challenging, interesting and collegial. After much consideration, I pronounce that technology and the law have many hidden pleasures, and I highly recommend it as a career.

The Invention: The invention of Multigrade asphalt cement at Asphalt Materials, Inc., Indianapolis, was a noteworthy event in the paving industry.

Roads paved with asphalt have been in use for over 125 years. In an effort to smooth the path for automobiles, asphalt was sprayed over a layer of crushed stone to form a road surface called "penetrating macadam." This was the composition of many roads through 1930 in the U.S. and Europe. Later, a heated hot mix of aggregate and asphalt was found to produce a smooth-riding surface. However, the resulting roads were temperature-dependent, becoming brittle in colder climates and soft at higher temperatures, leading to early degradation. Against this background, Anthony J. Kriech and Herbert L. Wissel, chemists in the laboratories of Asphalt Materials, Inc., undertook a comparative study of pavements that went into service in the 1930s through the 1950s against those built after 1970. They found that earlier-built roads were more flexible and showed less aging than those built after 1970. Analysis revealed that the thickness of the asphalt film from the old pavements was much greater than in the newer pavements. But how to thicken the asphalt layer and extend road life?

Kriech and Wissel commenced research into modifications of asphalt compositions that would be structurally stable over a wide range of climatic conditions and resistant to aging. Eventually, their work led to exploring use of gelled asphalt to achieve the desired structure and a thicker asphalt coating.

Tests confirmed and extended the favorable results of laboratory tests. For example, a test site was selected that daily carried over 100 loads of stone in slow-moving trucks. Previous attempts at paving with conventional asphalt paving normally failed within 18 months. These roads were paved in 1988 using the Kriech-Wissel Multigrade gelled asphalt composition. In 2002, these roads are still in service without requiring maintenance. Another important test took place in 1990 on I-465 around Indianapolis. This was the first test of Multigrade on an interstate highway system in the U.S. Conventional asphalt overlays on interstates typically last 8-10 years. This test project remains in excellent shape over 12 years of use, now moving about 125,000 traffic vehicles per day.

In 1992, a full-depth big-road project was constructed on I-65 in Indianapolis. This project was honored as the best new pavement in the U.S. in 1993. Today, it still is performing in excellent service condition, as rated by the Indiana Department of Transportation. Its durability entitles it to the designation of "perpetual pavements." Such pavements will require only replacement of the top wearing course to maintain friction and ride. Multigrade asphalt cements are expected to have lives of 50 years or more. They will greatly reduce replacement and construction costs of roadways.

In addition, since these early projects, Multigrade has been used extensively and successfully throughout North America, Europe, China and Australia. China is currently building their interstate highway system using Multigrade asphalt cement to produce 300 miles of new interstates per year.

Today, Multigrade is being used in building or rehabilitating roughly 1,000 miles of roads per year. The real value of Multigrade asphalt cement will be measured in extended lives of such roads. It is estimated that life extension by one year of all such roads in the U.S. saves, conservatively, about $1 billion in construction costs.

The Inventors: Anthony J. Kriech is Director of Research for Heritage Research Group, a privately-held research group that focuses on asphalt chemistry, pavement design, processes for recycling, recovery and conversion of metallic waste products, and other environmental problems. Kriech obtained his B.S. degree in chemistry from Marian College and pursued graduate studies in chemical engineering at Purdue University. He doubled use of his time by working as a laboratory technician at Asphalt Materials, Inc., a Heritage company. During his career, he has been responsible for many developments in the asphalt and environmental areas, including co-inventorship of the milestone development of Multigrade cement for road construction. Kriech has received patents in more than 30 countries and is an author of over 20 technical publications on his work.

Herbert L. Wissel is Assistant Director of Research and also Laboratory Manager of the Heritage Research Group. Wissel received a B.S. degree in chemistry, with a minor in biology, from Marian College. In addition to his contributions as a co-inventor of Multigrade asphalt cement, he has engaged in diverse research involving asphalt chemistry, and treatment of metallic waste streams. In addition to work on asphalt-related environmental concerns, he has been responsible for quality control for Heritage asphalt plants. His contributions are represented in patents in more than 30 countries. He is also an author of several technical publications.

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