- Every year, thousands of flights are delayed and thousands of car accidents happen due to snowstorms and icy road conditions.
- Millions of dollars are spent each year plowing and de-icing runways, tarmacs, roadways, and bridges.
- Salt and plowing causes damage to roadways and waterways, and injuries and deaths are caused by shoveling heavy snow.
- The Federal Aviation Administration is very interested in a special type of concrete made by researchers at the University of Nebraska that could help prevent flight delays during wintry weather, potentially saving millions of dollars for travelers and airlines.
- Also, no more shoveling the driveway? Yes, please!
- Concrete is normally a mixture of cement, gravel or crushed stone, sand and water.
- Conductive concrete is a mixture of normal concrete materials and 20% steel fibers and carbon particles.
- The steel and carbon are what conduct the electricity which heats the materials when an electrical current is connected.
- While the concrete conducts electricity, it is still safe to touch.
- Researchers are testing a 200 square foot slab of conductive concrete in Omaha, Nebraska, for its snow and ice-melting powers.
- A bridge designed by the University of Nebraska researchers has been kept ice-free by conductive concrete since 2002, so they feel confident this will work.
See an awesome time-lapse video of the conductive concrete in action here
- If the FAA sees the results they want from this study, they might start using it on the tarmac of an airport near you.
- BUT- it won’t be used on the runway just yet.
- Most airline delays come from ice and snow near the gates where the planes park, since refueling and loading and unloading baggage and supplies gets very hard in wintry weather.
- Self de-icing pavement used on streets, driveways, and parking lots could be a thing of the very near future- but don’t toss your snow shovels just yet. We still have a few good snow days off of school and work in our future!
- Extra awesome bonus for super-spy use (or if you’re just super paranoid): Because of the magnetite in it, conductive concrete can also block electromagnetic waves- e.g. cell phone or radio signals.
All warmed up and ready for some more
face ice-melting science? Read on, my friend: