Articles / Game Changers

Could icy roads be a thing of the past?

By Aviva Canada on

Conductive Concrete could revolutionize the way snow covered icy roads are cleared.

Winter driving can be a daunting task especially when snow and ice cover the roads. Canadians are aware of the dangers that snowy and icy roads present and the challenge that many cities have in keeping roads clear of snow and ice in the winter months.

According to a 2016 editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, about 12% of Canadian traffic fatalities and injuries happen because of poor road conditions in cold weather. Read the full editorial here.

“Although traffic fatalities have decreased over time thanks to safety initiatives, Canadians seem to have become accustomed to a certain level of carnage on our wintry roads and highways. Canada does not fare well compared with some countries that have snowy winters, with twice as many population-adjusted traffic deaths as Sweden”. - Diane Kelsall & Donald A. Redelmeier

However, with advancements in concrete and asphalt, this may be a problem of the past.

Chris Tuan, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Nebraska, has been working on road de-icing projects for 30 years. Tuan developed a method of using conductive steel fibers in concrete to reinforce and heat the concrete in roads, by running low voltage electricity through the steel.

In 2002, Tuan worked with Nebraska Department of Transportation to run a five-year test of his concrete on the 150 foot-long Roca Spur Bridge. He noted that 208 volt current running through the steel fibers was enough to keep the bridge free of ice and snow over the five-year test. The bridge still utilizes this innovative snow and ice-melting surface today. Read more here.

Other researchers are also exploring ways to make winter roads safer.

Read more about how some researchers are looking at ways that paraffin oil can prevent ice and snow from collecting on the roads.

Another study is looking at the benefits of treating asphalt with potassium formate, a salt that dissolves in water and reduces its melting point, causing snow and ice to melt quicker. Read more here.

One thing is certain – snow and ice are here to stay, and there is a significant need and opportunity to find ways to remove it from our roads as quickly and efficiently as possible, making roads safer for all.