Roads that de-ice themselves

A new road material (right) delays the formation of ice compared to conventional materials (left)
Turkish researchers led by Seda Kizilel, associate professor Koç University's College of Engineering, are developing materials for use on roads that could spell the end for icy driving conditions.

As winter approaches, local governments, shops, and homeowners stock up on salt, gravel and sand in anticipation of slippery roads. Trucks are deployed that dust roads with salt, sand or other chemical mixtures to help prevent ice build-up. But the de-icing agents doesn't stay on the streets for long; melting snow and vehicles driving by wash or force it off, making re-application necessary.

The researchers started with the salt potassium formate and combined it with the polymer styrene-butadiene-styrene. This mixture was then added 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 claimed. 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.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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