Self-Heating Roads

When it comes to unpredictable winter weather, maintaining safe driving conditions is a major concern. Researchers at the University of Houston came up with self-heating roads which are embedded with sheets of carbon nanofiber that are warmed by an electrical element. Carbon nanofibers proving to be the fastest way to clear snow from the roads is expected to reduce labor, time and car accidents due to snowy and icy roads. Designed to mimic the depth of real roads, the paper rests three inches below the surface of a four by 10 inch slab of concrete. Another inch stands between it and the ground below. The method applies corrosion resistant carbon nanofiber (CNF) paper technology to avoid changes to concrete mixing procedure and achieve the added advantage of automatic heating. In just two hours the concrete block they tested it on, measuring 25 square cm, warmed the roads from -10 °C to 0 °C (14 °F to 32 °F). This study, however, suggests that 6 watts of power is required for heating up the system which could potentially prove to be the downfall to the University of Houston‘s work, as with wide-spread use the power consumption would be vast. On the brighter side, paper embedded with carbon nano fibers is cheap since it is already used to make electrical components. And cutting down on salting and snowplowing could easily make up for energy lost through the concrete’s heating element. We probably won’t see entire roads covered in self-heating concrete any time soon, but spots known for being icy or snowy might be ideal locations for carbon nanofiber-based heat. If energy generating issues are solved in the future, this will prevent car accidents, salting, snowplowing and other physical labors associated with it.

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