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Conductive concrete developed to combat ice

Conductive concrete

An American academic has developed a concrete mixture that can carry enough electrical current to melt ice during winter storms

University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of civil engineering Chris Tuan has patented the concrete mixture, which contains enough current to melt ice while remaining safe to touch. Tuan added a steel shavings and carbon particles to make up 20% of a standard concrete mixture.

Now the research team is demonstrating the concrete’s de-icing performance to the Federal Aviation Administration for testing until the end of March. If successful it could be integrated into the tarmac of a major US airport.

Tuan said: “To my surprise, they don’t want to use it for the runways. What they need is the tarmac around the gated areas cleared, because they have so many carts to unload – luggage service, food service, trash service, fuel service – that all need to get into those areas.

“They said that if we can heat that kind of tarmac, then there would be (far fewer) weather-related delays. We’re very optimistic.”

It’s not the first time Tuan has worked on conductive concrete. In 2002, Tuan and the Nebraska Department of Roads inlaid the 150-foot Roca Spur Bridge with 52 conductive slabs that successfully de-iced its surface during a five-year trial run.

“Bridges always freeze up first, because they’re exposed to the elements on top and bottom,” Tuan said. “It’s not cost-effective to build entire roadways using conductive concrete, but you can use it at certain locations where you always get ice or have potholes.”

Tuan developed the concrete with the assistance of Lim Nguyen, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Bing Chen, professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Sherif Yehia, a professor at the American University of Sharjah who earned his doctorate in civil engineering at UNL. The FAA is currently funding the team’s research, which has also received past support from the Nebraska Department of Roads.

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