People who live in wintry suburbs are quite accustomed to the yearly ritual of spreading salt on the snowy roads. This pertains to a rather ineffective solution (yet a solution nonetheless) that counters the slippery conditions of the snow layers. But what if there was a solution literally built-in along the roads? Well a team of researchers from Koc University in Turkey may have found the holy-grail ‘prefabricated’ answer to the slippery predicament. And it entails the addition of some materials in the asphalt, which in turn could lead to release of salt by the road itself.
Getting in the thick of it, the scientists proceeded by mixing salt potassium formate with a water-repelling (hydrophobic) polymer known as styrene-butadiene-styrene. This composite was then added to bitumin, which is one of main binding contents of the asphalt. The resultant combination pertained to a material which upheld its durability and yet demonstrated the ability to mitigate the formation of ice on its surface.
Now in terms of testing, the researchers found that the asphalt material successfully prevented ice formation for almost two months by releasing salt for the same time period. And the good news is – this lab-tested result can be significantly improved in a practical scope, since roads are composed of multiple layers of asphalt (as opposed to a singular block). Simply put, in a real time scenario, as the upper layer of this special asphalt gets worn out by the traversing vehicles, the subsequent lower layer will be exposed to the road surface to release its salt. In essence, the period of service (of releasing salts to counter ice) provided by the material will get lengthened due to the many layers. This effectively translates to years of ice-free roads that ‘automatically’ release their salts.
The study was originally published in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.