Flight delays (and snow days) could be a thing of the past thanks to science

Snowzilla says nope.
On-time flight? Snowzilla says nope. Photo credit: washingtonpost.com

The Problem

  • 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!
Science is awful. Go away, science.
Science is awful. Go away, science.

The Study

  • 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.
The test slab of conductive concrete melted the snow on top of it Photo credit: Credit: Chris Tuan and Lim Nguyen
The test slab of conductive concrete melted the snow on top of it
Photo credit: Credit: Chris Tuan and Lim Nguyen

 

  • 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

The Takeaway

  • 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!
We'll keep this guy around, though. Just in case.
We’ll keep this guy around, though. Just in case.
  • 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:

http://news.unl.edu/newsrooms/unltoday/article/de-icing-concrete-could-improve-roadway-safety/

https://www.concrete.org/publications/internationalconcreteabstractsportal.aspx?m=details&i=821

http://www.cement.org/cement-concrete-basics/concrete-materials

Advertisements

Author: Emily

I started Rise and Sci because I love science, I love teaching people new things and I want to help build a greater public understanding of all things science. My goal is to take hard to understand concepts and make them accessible to everyone- all in a fun an interesting format!

2 thoughts on “Flight delays (and snow days) could be a thing of the past thanks to science”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s