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Drexel University researchers have made a discovery that could create roads that deice themselves during winter storms. Their secret?—Adding a little paraffin wax to the road's concrete mix.
In a paper recently published in journal Cement and Concrete Composites researchers, led by Yaghoob Farnam, PhD, an assistant professor in Drexel's College of Engineering, explain how substances like paraffin oil—known as "phase change materials" in chemistry—can be used in concrete to store energy and release it as heat when a road needs a melt-off.
Roads - Challenge - Months - Efforts - Use
Keeping roads open to travel is a persistent challenge during winter months, but efforts to make them safely passable—including the constant use of snow plows, deicing chemicals and road salt—tend to deteriorate the surface. The chemicals and road salts currently used to melt snow and ice can also have a deleterious environmental impact when surface runoff carries them into nearby ecosystems—which is pretty likely considering the state of Pennsylvania alone dumps more than 900,000 tons of it on roads each winter. So researchers have been searching for a better winter option than salting and plowing for some time.
Farnam's group in collaboration with researchers from Purdue University and Oregon State University, is among the first to demonstrate that using phase change materials as an environmentally friendly alternative can be just as effective as the standard salting and scraping methods.
Phase - Change - Materials - Aggregate - Pipes
"Phase change materials can be incorporated into concrete using porous lightweight aggregate or embedded pipes and when PCM transforms from liquid to solid during cooling events, it can release thermal heat that can be used to melt ice and snow," Farnam said. "By inhibiting the formation of ice and snow on the pavement or bridge surface, the use of PCM may reduce or eliminate the need for deicing chemicals/salts, snowplowing or both—thus saving money and positively influencing the environmental impact of such...
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