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Roads That De-Ice Themselves? Why Hasn't Somebody Thought About This Sooner?

Come winter, the authorities spend a lot of time and money on making the roads less white and more suitable for safe driving.
Land Rover Discovery Sport 1 photo
Any solution that could limit this huge flow of resources on something so perishable as pushing snow away from the road's surface and melting the ice that forms on top of the tarmac would definitely be welcomed. But apart from moving the whole of Earth's population around the Equator, what else could we do?

Heated roads would be cool, but not even a crazy, megalomaniac communist regime has tried it, as it would simply require enormous quantities of energy.

The answer could be linked to a substance we already use for deicing the roads, and according to those who pull it out of the Earth's belly, there's still plenty to go around. It's salt.

Whenever ice forms on the road - or even before that happens - in come the snow ploughs, which, instead of trying to scrape the thin layer of ice off the asphalt (which would require surgical precision), spread the salt around and leave it to work its magic.

Some researchers at Koc University in Turkey (isn't it funny how countries that don't really have harsh winters worry about the rest of us who do?) had a brilliant idea: what if the salt were to be built into the road in the first place?

Everybody must have felt really stupid for not thinking about this earlier, and then they began to test different solutions. The recipe worked out by the Turkish scientists contains salt potassium formate and a water-repelling polymer called styrene-butadiene-styrene. Added to the bitumen that usually goes into making the asphalt, the mixture successfully released ice melting salts for up to two months in laboratory conditions.

The researchers say that, in the real world, it would last longer as the natural wear of the road surface would allow new, fresh layers of the substance to be constantly brought to the surface. The only downside of this method has to do with the fact that cars will be constantly exposed to this salty substance, decreasing the lifespan of the tires, for example.

But if the method does work, it could be a viable alternative for those mountain roads that close during the winter, as keeping them clean using traditional methods would not make economical sense. Of course, it all depends on how expensive this Turkish mixture is, something the Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the publication announcing this innovation, doesn't talk about.

 
 
 
 
 

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