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. a photo of cyclists riding beside a streetcar in the Mid Market neighborhood in San Francisco, California.
    Transportation

    San Francisco’s Busiest Street Is Going Car-Free

    A just-approved plan will redesign Market Street to favor bikes, pedestrians, and public transit vehicles. But the vote to ban private cars didn’t happen overnight.

  2. a photo of a WeWork office building
    Life

    What WeWork’s Demise Could Do to NYC Real Estate

    The troubled coworking company is the largest office tenant in New York City. What happens to the city’s commercial real estate market if it goes under?

  3. a photo of Extinction Rebellion climate change protesters in London
    Environment

    When Climate Activists Target Public Transit

    The climate protest movement Extinction Rebellion is facing a backlash after disrupting commuters on the London Underground.

  4. Life

    Why Do Instagram Playgrounds Keep Calling Themselves Museums?

    The bustling industry of immersive, Instagram-friendly experiences has put a new spin on the word museum.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×