A group of scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was able to come up with a special concrete mixture that can de-ice roadways on its own. The secret of the new invention lies with about one-fifth of the mixture which is made of highly conductive materials such as steel and carbon particles.
The particles allow electricity to flow unhindered and melt away hazardous snow and ice on public roads. Scientists believe that their finding could literally save lives, while also helping municipalities save important cash with defrost operations.
Chris Tuan, the head of the research team and civil engineering expert with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, explained that the de-icing concrete could be used in key points on streets and highways which are more prone to accidents under frigid weather conditions.
He mentioned bridges, crossroads, and interstate exit ramps as locations where car crashes usually occur due to glaze ice. Tuan added that the mixture is not hazardous for pedestrians and could be more environmentally-friendly than current defrost techniques. Currently, city hall contractors use tons of salt and hazardous chemicals which can leak into ground water and poison the soil.
Nebraska-Lincoln engineers explained that the new concrete needs to be coupled to a power source to work. The newly-developed material is just highly conductive, but it cannot generate or store energy on its own.
The research team explained that once paired with a power source the concrete slabs would produce heat on their own to de-ice their surface. Plus, the material is not a lot more expensive than traditional concrete. It costs about $180 more per cubic yard than regular concrete.
Engineers said that the material has been tested and proved viable. They mentioned a bridge near Lincoln, Nebraska which was equipped with 52 special concrete slabs 14 years ago. Reportedly, the bridge has been melting ice by itself without incidents ever since.
Currently, the team has ambitious plans for the de-icing material. They are in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration in a bid to demonstrate that the material could prove really useful on the nation’s airports. If the FAA is convinced, the concrete slabs will be first tested on a major U.S. airport.
Tuan said that so far FAA officials are only interested in applying the new material on the tarmac near gates because that area is highly circulated by airport staffers including those from food, trash, and fuel services.
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