Flights at Des Moines International Airport are taking a roll down Electric Avenue – on the runways.
Thanks to ingenious engineering at Iowa State University, flights at Des Moines International Airport in Iowa are able to skip icy runways in the wintertime, at least on a small test patch. Professor Halil Ceylan led a team to create a material for runways that melts ice and snow on its own – eliminating the need to try and get rid of the chilly stuff manually.
The material is electrically conducive concrete.
“Each slab is 7.5 inches thick (19 cm), and consists of two layers,” Ben Coxworth reported for the New Atlas. “The bottom 4-inch (10-cm) layer is made up of regular concrete, while the top layer consists of 1 percent carbon fiber combined with a special mix of cement, sand and rocks. Sandwiched between those layers are six electrodes (per slab) that are hard-wired to a power supply in a nearby hangar.”
The thawing concrete is activated by an app, which triggers the electrodes to send a current through the top layer of concrete. The carbon fiber makes the rock conductive, but provides enough resistance to create some heat that then melts the ice or snow. The surface of the concrete never gets too hot to touch, though.
The test patch is two slabs of the concrete next to each other, each measuring 15 by 13.5 feet, and it uses about $.19 operating cost per square meter over seven hours of operation time. Another material using steel shavings and carbon particles has been in testing with the Federal Aviation Administration as well.
[Photo: Iowa State University]