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Professor Chris Tuan's breakthrough innovation - concrete that melts snow, even in the middle of a snowstorm.

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With our relatively mild winters, South African roads are rarely covered in snow and ice, but in other parts of the world it’s a fact of life that can cause significant disruption – and can even be fatal. Earlier this year, Chris Tuan, professor of civil engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA, announced a new approach that could solve the problem: concrete that melts snow, even in the middle of a snowstorm.

The idea of conductive concrete has been in place for some time. In 2002, the Department of Roads in Nebraska installed 52 slabs of electrically conductive concrete to de-ice the Roca Spur Bridge, located south of Lincoln, Nebraska. The cost of de-icing the bridge using conductive concrete is significantly lower than the cost of transporting trucks full of chemicals to do the same work, especially in a region that can be blasted by winter storms that last for days.

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The bridge project set the precedent, but Tuan and his team are now turning their attention to other applications. By adjusting the formula of the cement to incorporate 20% of non-standard ingredients from industrial waste – including steel shavings and carbon particles –the concrete can be activated by power that is generated through rods inserted into the concrete. Doing so, allows electricity to pass through the surface with enough conductivity to melt snow during a storm – without any danger of electrocution by touch.

The technology could be applied to tarmac at airports, so as to minimise delays and disruption caused by winter weather. The concrete is heated up before the storm hits, so it is warm enough to melt the snow as it hits the ground.

Watch the following video to see this technology at work: (http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/107332.php)

Do you have an idea using conductive concrete? Why not enter the Industrial Design category?

References:

(http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/uon-ccc012216.php)

(http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/01/conductive-concrete-melts-snow/433752/)

(http://www.businessinsider.com/conductive-concrete-melts-snow-on-roads-ice-deicing-electric-university-nebraska-lincoln-2016-1)

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