Snow-Melting Concrete Products Are Almost Here
Researchers Have Found a Method to Create Concrete and Pavement that Melts Snow
With winter just around the corner, snow plows, salt trucks, and hazardous driving conditions will soon be a regular occurrence on our roads. While we all dread the harsh winter conditions, we’ve come to accept this unpleasant weather as a part of Canadian life. But imagine if the roads cleared themselves of snow and ice on their own—instead of waiting for the snow plow to come by, the snow would melt with the help of heated pavement.
Thankfully, researchers have found a way to create snow-melting concrete. By mixing paraffin wax with concrete products, this new concrete warms and melts the snow and ice when the temperature drops. This new concrete mix can melt snow more efficiently than salt and is also more environmentally friendly.
The copious amounts of salt used on roads every winter contribute to the fast deterioration of pavement and vehicles while also depositing huge amounts of salt in the environment. Salt is costly to use and to distribute on roads all winter long, and the cost of repairs needed from salt damage add up. A cost-effective, environmentally-friendly solution to snow removal is a must for areas hit hard by winter.
How It Works
This snow-melting concrete relies on the phase-change material quality of paraffin oil. Phase change materials store heat and emit heat during the winter. When the paraffin oil freezes from liquid to solid, it releases thermal energy (heat).
Concrete treated with paraffin wax melts snow by warming the concrete during the phase change process of freezing. During product testing, researchers found that treated concrete melts snow within a day, while untreated concrete leaves snow intact for the most part.
Paraffin wax is a low-cost material, so mixing it with concrete products could be a cost-effective and convenient way to keep roads clear during the winter. This would also reduce the amount of salt deposited on roads and in the surrounding natural environment. This paraffin snow-melting discovery is likely to be a time-saver at airports in cold climates. Often, airports face lengthy delays and cancellations during the winter months, which cost airlines millions of dollars each year.
Airports must also constantly stay on top of keeping runways clear of ice and snow. Airport runway pavement that melts ice and snow with the help of paraffin wax could result in fewer delays and cancellations in the winter, making airlines and airport operations more efficient, saving significant costs.
Researchers still need to test how paraffin wax affects concrete in the long run. Concrete durability, stability, and skid-resistance can’t be compromised. But if cleared for use on roads, this innovative solution will have a positive impact on road safety in the winter, while saving millions of dollars on salting roads, and reducing the harmful amounts of salt entering the environment each year.