A concrete answer to de-icing?

Written by: Alwyn Brice |
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Two slabs of electrically conductive concrete have been installed at Des Moines International airport in Iowa to melt snow and ice.

A research team from Iowa State University has said that if the tests were to prove successful, the technology could also be used in and around gates for ground handling equipment, as well as be deployed in front of the terminal to assist passengers.

In the experiment the slabs, each of which is about four square metres in size and which may be controlled via a smartphone, comprise two layers. The bottom stratum is composed of 100 millimetres of regular concrete whilst the upper layer is just under 900 millimetres deep and is made from the conductive material.

Sandwiched between the layers are 12 electrodes, six per slab, which run the width of each slab and generate heat.

The concrete used in this experiment isn’t of the ordinary type, either, for it contains 1% carbon fibre along with a special mix of cement, sand and rocks; and it’s the carbon fibre that allows the concrete to conduct electricity. For the experiment the two sections were also fitted with temperature probes, strain gauges and humidity sensors. Surveillance cameras and a high grade thermal camera have been set up to monitor progress.

As for cost, this is deemed minimal: around 333 watts are used per square metre, which equates to a trio of light bulbs illuminated for seven hours.

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