I have lived in the Chicago area most all of my life and it’s where I will forever call “home.” But one of the yearly struggles we have in this area is winter and the mess it brings with it. Winter is beautiful. The trees and landscape take on a whole new dimension once the snow falls and covers everything and ice forms on the eves of your home. But that same snow and ice also cover the roads we drive on making for a sometimes difficult and hazardous commute. Now researchers are claiming to have found a way for roads, we’ll call them smart roads, to de-ice themselves by adding a few things to the asphalt.
The researchers started with the salt potassium formate and combined it with the polymer styrene-butadiene-styrene. They added this mixture to bitumen, a major component of asphalt. The resulting material was just as sturdy as unmodified bitumen, and it significantly delayed ice formation in lab studies. The new composite released de-icing salt for two months in the lab, but the effects could last even longer when used on real roads, the researchers note. In that instance, the salt-polymer composite would be evenly embedded throughout the asphalt. Thus, as cars and trucks drive over and wear away the pavement, the salt could continually be released — potentially for years.
The benefits of this would be amazing if it actually works as conceived; although, I wonder if the same could be done with concrete roads. Of course there are other factors to consider, the cost being the biggest. Would cities find it more cost effective to replace existing roads with this de-icing asphalt mix? Or would continuing to use sand and salt to de-ice roads be more cost effective? This is all new so those questions will need answering at some point. For now it is a good concept that perhaps could be implemented in some way.
What do you think of self de-icing smart roads? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.