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. Life

    Suburban Jobs Are Growing Fastest, But Urban Jobs Pay More

    New labor data show that the suburbs have the fastest job growth in the U.S. But we shouldn’t assume the future of employment will be suburban.

  2. photo: a commuter looks at a small map of the London Tube in 2009
    Maps

    Help! The London Tube Map Is Out of Control.

    It’s never been easy to design a map of the city’s underground transit network. But soon, critics say, legibility concerns will demand a new look.

  3. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  4. A photo-illustration of a child looking at a garbage truck
    Life

    Why Are Kids Obsessed With Garbage Trucks? An Investigation

    For some kids, the weekly trash pickup is a must-see spectacle. Parents, children, waste-management professionals, and experts on childhood all offer theories as to why.

  5. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California’s Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over vacancy in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

×