Flickr/Paul Heaberlin

Researchers are developing salt-infused asphalt as a solution to slippery streets.

To protect drivers and pedestrians from slippery roads and pavements, city governments in snow-hit regions around the U.S. will probably use salt, sand, and even cheese as topical de-icing agents.

According to a 2015 U.S. Geological Survey report, 43 percent of the annual salt production in the U.S., valued at $2.2 billion, was devoted for melting ice on roads. The city of Rochester, New York, for example, purchased 27,000 tons of salt for $46.80 per ton to prepare for this winter, according to NBC News, and it will spend $1 million to have it spread across the city. But other cities that are less familiar with extremely cold weather struggle to find ice-melting supplies in time for the snow.

A new solution in the works at Turkey’s Koc University might make the annual de-icing process less labor intensive, less harmful to the environment, and perhaps less expensive in the long-run. Researchers there are testing what’s essentially salt-infused asphalt by embedding potassium formate (a salt that dissolves in water and can lower its melting point) in bitumen, an ingredient of asphalt. The American Chemical Society explains more in a press release:  

The resulting material was just as sturdy as unmodified bitumen, and it significantly delayed ice formation in lab studies. The new composite released de-icing salt for two months in the lab, but the effects could last even longer when used on real roads, the researchers note. In that instance, the salt-polymer composite would be evenly embedded throughout the asphalt. Thus, as cars and trucks drive over and wear away the pavement, the salt could continually be released — potentially for years.

As someone who slips an average of five times per snowy day, self-melting pavements sound like the best Christmas gift imaginable.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    Why Amsterdam’s Canal Houses Have Endured for 300 Years

    A different kind of wealth distribution in 17th-century Amsterdam paved the way for its quintessential home design.

  2. photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
    Life

    What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

    The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

  3. photo: San Diego's Trolley
    Transportation

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  4. Equity

    What ‘Livability’ Looks Like for Black Women

    Livability indexes can obscure the experiences of non-white people. CityLab analyzed the outcomes just for black women, for a different kind of ranking.

  5. photo: NYC subway
    Transportation

    Behind the Gains in U.S. Public Transit Ridership

    Public transportation systems in the United States gained passengers over the second and third quarters of 2019. But the boost came from two large cities.

×