UNL professor's de-icing concrete gaining ground

By  | 

LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) -- A new type of concrete developed at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln could soon make life easier and safer for anyone who has to deal with snow.

Not many people have a passion for snow but UNL Professor Dr. Chris Tuan does.

“You know you've been working on a project with passion for 10-15 years and finally people recognize the value of this technology,” Tuan said. “So we started in ‘97 and after all these years.”

Tuan told WOWT 6 News he’s finally found a way to keep snow off of the ground. When powered, a 200 square foot slab of concrete, created by Dr. Tuan, can heat up and melt ice in a safe way.

“When they see the time lapse video they were all awed by this de-icing function,” said Tuan.

A time lapse video taken at an Omaha test lab captured the state-of-the-art technology take on a Nebraska snowfall. The four inches of snow that fell that day didn’t stand a chance.

The power needed is as little as what comes from an outlet in your home and the electricity produced is safe to the touch.

The concrete consists of about 80 percent concrete and 20 percent steel fibers and carbon particles. Graduate Student Mitchell Kowalewski told WOWT 6 News that getting the combination right didn’t come easy. He said, “It’s also been physically demanding to work on this.”

Right now, the technology isn't feasible to use on interstates and long roads but intersections, exit ramps, steep hills, and driveways are all possibilities.

“You don't have to spread road salt or deicing chemicals to de-ice,” said Tuan.

The FAA is now testing the mixture and they’re impressed they will then use it for the tarmac of a major airport to allow gates to be cleared more efficiently during delays.

Dr. Tuan hopes to make the technology available to the public so that one day no one will have to scrape their own sidewalks and driveways.

“You can eliminate personal injury due to slipping and falling and at the same time you don't have to shovel snow,” said Tuan.

Dr. Tuan was surprised the airlines don't want it for runways just the tarmacs. Airline officials said keeping those areas clear of snow would greatly decrease delays and cancellations.