Will this New Method Eliminate Icy Runways for Good?
The winter can make a mess out of everything - especially airports. Flights can be delayed or cancelled if there's ice on the plane wings or blocking the runway. While there has yet to be a new method introduced for clearing the airplane wings of ice, an Iowa State University team may have the answer for runways free of ice.
Prof. Halil Ceylan from Iowa State University has developed an electrically-conductive concrete that has the ability to melt snow and ice. Studies of the materials ability are being conducted at the Des Moines International Airport.
The two side by side slabs of concrete material measuring 15 x 13.5 feet each are currently installed on the apron of the airport's general aviation area.
image © Don Ramey Logan
According to Ben Coxworth " Each slab is 7.5 inches thick (19 cm), and consists of two layers. The bottom 4-inch (10-cm) layer is made up of regular concrete, while the top layer consists of 1 percent carbon fiber combined with a special mix of cement, sand and rocks. Sandwiched between those layers are six electrodes (per slab) that are hard-wired to a power supply in a nearby hangar."
An electrical current is sent through the top layer of the concrete once the electrodes are remotely powered up via an application. Though the concrete is still safe to touch, the heat enables the surface of the concrete to melt away accumulated ice and snow.
Since the material is currently in its testing phase, the team will soon put a hydrophobic coating on the concrete slabs to assist the material with repelling moisture.
The cost of the concrete slabs will be much more expensive than regular concrete, however it will cut costs in the future. The concrete only uses 333 watts per square meter for seven hours with an estimated operating cost of 19 cents per square meter. This is much cheaper than having to pay for additional snow removal methods.
While currently the technology is only being tested and proposed for use at airports, eventually the material could be used to help cities with streets that too clustered to allow a plow through and towns with roads that have minimal traffic but still require snow removal.