De-icing Concrete

De-icing Concrete


Chris Tuan and colleagues, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA, have developed conductive concrete that can carry enough electrical current to melt ice during winter storms while remaining safe to the touch. They added a pinch of steel shavings and a dash of carbon particles to a otherwise standard concrete mixture. Tuan is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),  Washington, D.C., USA, and other organizations on multiple applications for his patented concrete mixture.

If the FAA is satisfied with the results of a test slaboutside the Peter Kiewit Institute, Omaha, NE, USA, they will consider scaling up the tests by integrating the technology into the tarmac of a major U.S. airport.

In 2002, 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. The power required to thermally de-ice the bridge during a three-day storm costs about $250 – several times less than a truckload of chemicals, according to Tuan.

It is not cost-effective to build entire roadways using conductive concrete, but it can be used at certain locations where ice or potholes often occur, such as at high-traffic intersections, exit ramps, driveways, and at sidewalks. Potholes often originate from the liberal use of salt or de-icing chemicals that can corrode concrete.

By replacing the limestone and sand typically used in concrete with magnetite, Tuan has shown that the mixture can also shield against electromagnetic waves. The electromagnetic spectrum includes the radiofrequency waves transmitted and received by cell phones, which Tuan said could make the concrete mixture useful to prevent becoming target of industrial espionage.


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