Electrified Concrete Could End Winter Driving Woes

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Electrified Concrete

All that frost nipping at your nose is cute, until the snow flies and you have to break out that shovel. No one likes shovelling snow and driving in snow is even worse, but new electrified concrete could put an end to our winter woes forever.

It looks and feels like any other slab of concrete, but it hides a secret. University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of civil engineering Chris Tuan added steel shavings and carbon particles to the mix. They make up roughly 20 percent of what is otherwise the standard concrete used by construction crews everywhere.

According to Phys.org, those little particles of steel and carbon conduct enough electricity to melt snow and ice, but are completely safe to the touch. No children will be zapped if they decide to break out the colored chalk on an electrified section of sidewalk on a summer day.

The material is currently being tested by the FAA for effectiveness. If all goes well, then testing will be scaled up to a major US airport, but they’re not looking at putting it into a runway.

Electrified Concrete Slab

The FAA’s priority is the area around the gates. There’s lots of traffic in these spots from luggage carts, food service vehicles, and refueling tanks, so keeping these areas clear is essential. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be used out on the runway, just that the FAA sees that as secondary to their winter problems.

Testing has gone a step further on public roads with a special bridge constructed south of Lincoln, Nebraska. The Nebraska Department of Roads used the new concrete mix in the 150-foot Roca Spur Bridge. It took 52 slabs of concrete to build and it’s been successfully de-icing the surface for over ten years. That’s over a decade of successful testing in the real world.

Much like loading areas are a priority for the FAA, bridges are a priority for road crews since bridges freeze before roads. The concrete material works, but its cost is holding it back. Right now it’s simply too expensive to build entire roads out of the stuff.

Although the initial cost may be high, over time the new concrete could save money and the environment. Road crews wouldn’t need to do as much work and salt and de-icing chemicals would be unnecessary. Those chemicals cost money, corrode concrete, and contaminate ground water. There’s a cost savings to this innovation that goes far beyond money.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin