As much as 42 inches of snow covered the ground last week after a historic blizzard slammed the East Coast. Days later, cities are still working to clear roadways and sidewalks.
Chris Tuan, a civil engineer at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, thinks there’s a better way to manage this huge task. With funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, he’s come up with a formula for making conductive concrete, which can carry enough electrical current to melt snow in even the worst storms.
The mixture contains basic concrete ingredients—including cement, sand, and water—but Tuan has replaced 20 percent of the components with steel shavings and a fine powder called “coke breeze,” both of which are industrial waste products. When the finished slabs are connected to a power source via steel rods inserted inside the concrete, they can generate heat that will spread to the concrete’s surface.
Tuan currently has a 200-square-foot test slab connected to a 120-volt AC power source outside his office that shows how the concrete works:
If testing is successful, the FAA will use the concrete on airport tarmacs to minimize delays during winter storms. But his research could also be used in cities.