With winter comes snow, and with snow comes dump trucks full of salt ready to melt it away. A team of researchers from Koc University in Istanbul believe they’ve found a way to simplify that process by building the salt right into the roads themselves.
In a paper published in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the scientists report how they were able to develop this innovative new material. They started by mixing water-repellant styrene-butadiene-styrene together with salt potassium formate, a compound that shows promise as an earth-friendly ice remover. They then added the mixture to bitumen, which is the sticky, black substance that’s vital to making asphalt concrete. The resulting product is strong and durable enough to be used for roads while doubling as an automatic de-icer in the winter months.
The new asphalt substance released salt for nearly two months in the lab, and researchers say it would be even more effective in the real world. This is one case where wear and tear would actually improve the material’s performance—as heavy vehicles drive over it on a daily basis, the asphalt would wear away to reveal additional salt-dense layers beneath it. This way the salt-road could be functional for years at a time.
The biggest downside to this idea would be that the salt and corrosion cars are subjected to each winter would become a year-round hassle. But compared to the alternative, that may be a small price to pay.