Hole Patch

Stage 2 E-Team Grantees

Recipient Institution: 
Case Western Reserve University
Principal Investigator: 
Edward Caner
Grant Amount: 

A non-toxic solution for cold-weather pothole repair that is faster, simpler, and cheaper than current practices.

See the videos here:

The team:
Hole Patch – Awarded $20,000

The team members:

  • Nicholas Barron, undergraduate student in Physics
  • Noah Gostout, graduated in January 2013 with master’s degree in Physics Entrepreneurship

Principal investigator:
Dr. Edward Caner, STEP Executive Director & Lecturer

Case Western Reserve University

The innovation:
A durable plastic bag filled with unique fluid that can be used to temporarily fill potholes until permanent repairs can be made.

The problem:
On roads across the nation, potholes often appear faster than maintenance crews can repair them. Cold-weather repair is particularly problematic. Potholes can only be properly repaired when the weather is sunny and dry, but in many areas of the country, these conditions are a rarity during the winter months.

The standard practice is to quickly “cold patch” potholes with asphalt that provides a temporary fix until full repairs can be made. This method requires traffic to be diverted while crews pour and roll the asphalt. The asphalt used to cold patch potholes is not particularly resilient and deteriorates under constant pressure from vehicle traffic.

Potholes can cause significant damage to vehicles and increase the likelihood of accidents. According to the American Automobile Association, potholes are responsible for approximately $5 billion in car repair costs each year.

The solution:
Hole Patch’s technology consists of a durable plastic bag filled with a “non-Newtonian fluid” – a fluid that hardens when a force is applied to it. When the bag is placed inside of a pothole, the fluid flows outward to fill it. The moment a car drives over the bag, it hardens, preventing wheels from sinking into the hole. For larger potholes, multiple bags can be used.

Because Hole Patch works by simply placing a bag inside of a pothole, streets do not need to be closed to accommodate work crews. Whereas cold patch asphalt can begin to deteriorate in as little as 24 hours, a Hole Patch bag can last up to several weeks on roads with regular traffic, and can be reused to fill multiple potholes over its lifespan.

The future:
Hole Patch’s technology is unlike any other product on the market, so the team’s first priority is to secure their intellectual property. They have filed for a U.S. non-provisional patent, and have filed a Patent Cooperation Treaty application to obtain international recognition of the patent.

Initial testing of Hole Patch in cooperation with the City of East Cleveland has shown consistently positive results, but the product still needs to be tested under a wider variety of road, traffic and weather conditions. The results of these tests may necessitate the development of additional prototype fluids.

In order to manufacture the product at scale, the team will need to refine its design to allow for efficient manufacturing. In the long term, the team hopes to build Hole Patch into a successful business, supplying government transportation departments with the technology to increase vehicle safety and reduce operational costs.

Tips for student innovators:
Noah and Nicholas have found that people are an innovator’s most valuable asset. Diversity of skills and backgrounds among collaborating students and faculty members is essential for achieving success in innovation and entrepreneurship. Seeking out an advisor with specific experience in your particular industry is also vital.