Lincoln, Nebraska – Chris Tuan, civil engineering Professor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has designed a smart electrically conductive concrete able to melt snow.

It is, for the most part, the same as regular concrete, but 20% of its ingredients include steel shavings and carbon particles, which give the mix conductivity that allows it to melt ice and snow making roadways much safer. Tuan explained that de-icing concrete is intended for icy bridges, street intersections, interstate exit ramps, and where accidents are prone to take place.

De-icing concrete could significantly improve roadway safety during winter. Credit:

Tuan added that this innovative concrete is not only safe for commuters and pedestrians, but could also potentially help the environment as it reduces the amount of salt and chemicals used to combat ice on the roads.

“When connected to a power source, the electrical resistance in the concrete will generate heat and propagate to the concrete surface to melt the snow and ice,” Tuan explained.

The concrete costs about $300 per cubic yard compared to $120 per cubic yard of regular concrete. But, Tuan believes at the end de-icing would be cheaper to implement. According to the inventor, the amount of power used to thermally de-ice the Roca Spur Bridge during a three-day storm would cost around US$250. He says this amount is several times less than a truckload of de-icing chemicals.

The Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing the material and its results. They believe that if they could use the material, there would be far fewer weather-related delays. His creator commented about the government intentions to use the concrete that for his surprise, they don’t want to use it for the runways.

The UNL research team will be demonstrating the special concrete’s de-icing performance to the Federal Aviation Administration in a testing phase that will end in March.

If the federal aviation decides to use the material, it would be deal changing as it would be integrated into a major airport in the United States. But de-icing concrete has already been tested since 2002 on a 150-foot bridge near Lincoln, Nebraska. The bridge was inlaid with 52 slabs of de-icing concrete and has successfully melted snow and ice on its own ever since.

Tuan and company are not the only team working in developing alternatives to the hazard chemicals normally use to de-ice roads. A group of engineers have published a recent study in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research where they propose a method for creating self-sufficient winter roads in which roads could essentially salt themselves.

This technique mixes polymer salt pockets into bitumen, a binding agent used in standard asphalt road surfaces. The salt would be released in measured amounts as vehicles drive over the road, and as the salt composite is evenly embedded in the road surface, the asphalt could potentially de-ice itself for years at a time.

Source: Huffington Post