A concrete mixture that can conduct enough electricity to melt ice and snow, while remaining safe to the touch, has been demonstrated to US Government officials.
Chris Tuan, professor of civil engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln developed the conductive concrete with the assistance of colleagues.
His research team recently demonstrated the concrete’s de-icing performance to the US Federal Aviation Administration.
He admitted that the product is not cost-effective for general use on roads but suggested that it could be used for bridges and key junctions.
The conductive concrete incorporates a pinch of steel shavings and a dash of carbon particles, making up less than 20% of what is otherwise a standard concrete mixture.
A Nebraskan road bridge exemplifies the sort of targeted site that Mr Tuan envisages for the technology.
In 2002, Mr Tuan and the Nebraska Department of Roads made the 150-foot Roca Spur Bridge the world’s first to incorporate conductive concrete. It was inlaid with 52 conductive slabs that successfully de-iced its surface during a five-year trial run.
Mr Tuan explained: ‘Bridges always freeze up first, because they’re exposed to the elements on top and bottom. It’s not cost-effective to build entire roadways using conductive concrete, but you can use it at certain locations where you always get ice or have potholes.’
According to Mr Tuan, potholes often originate from the liberal use of salt or de-icing chemicals that can corrode concrete. He said the energy costs of thermally de-icing a bridge are less than using large quantities of chemicals.
Mr Tuan said the conductive concrete could also be used for busy intersections, exit ramps, driveways and ‘sidewalks’.
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