AMES, Iowa (AP) — Roadways can turn hazardous and deadly during winter's wrath, and a project under way in Iowa is looking at one possible solution: Heating the pavement.
The Iowa Department of Transportation and Iowa State University are working together on heated pavement technology, the Ames Tribune reports.
ISU engineering professor Halil Ceylan is also director of the Institute for Transportation's program for sustainable pavement engineering. He is principal investigator of the heated-pavement project, which began as a class project.
"Given the harsh winter conditions we have here, we were thinking of a solution to provide safe travelling for the public," Ceylan said.
Lab tests and studies began in 2013. The Federal Aviation Administration later provided funding used for the first test, at the Des Moines Airport.
That testing caught the attention of the Iowa Department of Transportation, which along with the Highway Research Board, now provides funding for the study.
"Winter can be tough in Iowa. If there's something that can help increase mobility and public safety, we're going to take a close look at it," said Bob Younie, director of the office of maintenance at the DOT.
Ceylan said the project starts like any road project, with poured concrete. After that, three inches of electrically conductive concrete is poured on top — the layer that actually heats.
The project pavement stays at around 40 degrees when the electricity is turned on — just enough to melt ice and snow.
The problem is the cost. Ceylan said the electrically conductive concrete is 50 percent more expensive than regular concrete per square yard, and the cost to heat the slab of pavement is 2.8 cents per hour.
The Iowa state crews have experimented with 10 different concrete slabs, each with varying sizes and diameters of electrodes. Ceylan said that allowed an opportunity to see which proved to be the most energy efficiency.
More testing remains to be done.
"Every winter is unique and different," Ceylan said. "The more we test it, the better understanding we'll have of the long-term system."