Researchers Make Electric Concrete That De-Ices Itself

Time to put away the shovels and ice
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2016 6:45 PM CST
Researchers Make Electric Concrete That De-Ices Itself
Put the shovels away: Scientists are developing electricity-conducting concrete that de-ices itself.   (Photo by Steve Ruark)

Get ready for some electrifying concrete news. No, seriously. UPI reports researchers at the University of Nebraska are developing conductive concrete that uses electricity to keep itself free of snow and ice during even the worst winter storms. Sounds like something the East Coast could've used this week. The winter-defeating concrete is made with 80% traditional asphalt and 20% "carbon particles and steel shavings." It carries enough current to heat itself to 40 degrees, according to National Geographic. That's enough to melt snow and ice but not to hurt people, UPI reports. Funding for the concrete comes from the FAA, which hopes to use it in tarmacs. “They said that if we can heat that kind of tarmac, then there would be (far fewer) weather-related delays," civil engineering professor Chris Tuan says in a press release. "We're very optimistic."

The idea for conductive concrete has been around for decades, and a test of Tuan's design kept a Nebraska bridge clear during the winter back in the early 2000s, National Geographic reports. So why are we still shoveling our driveways like chumps? One expert says cost and liability concerns are to blame. Tuan has addressed that first concern by using waste from the coal and steel industries in his concrete, reducing the manufacturing cost by 60%. And he notes that once the concrete is installed, it costs less to heat than to use salt or chemicals, according to UPI. And while it's too expensive for use on entire roads, the conductive concrete could be used for busy intersections, driveways, and other "strategic locations." (Yellowstone closed a road because it was melting.)

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