Sunday, January 07, 2018

Heated pavement technology could be travelers' dream come true

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa State engineers are testing heated pavement technology that could make icy airport runways a thing of the past.

Halil Ceylan, a civil engineering professor, is spearheading the research, which is part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Center of Excellence Partnership to Enhance General Aviation Safety, Accessibility and Sustainability, or PEGASAS.

“Our ultimate goal is to keep airports open, accessible and safe during winter events,” Ceylan told KCCI.

The $2.2 million project is getting its first real test this winter, and it could change airports around the world.

Here’s how it works: Test slabs of electrically conductive concrete are made up of 1 percent carbon fiber and a special mix of cement, sand and rocks.

That carbon fiber allows the concrete to conduct electricity, and the resistance of the moving electrons then creates heat.

“It actually generates an electrical field, and because of the resistance of the concrete, it actually starts melting and generating heat,” Ceylan said.

The test patch looks like the rest of the concrete at the airport, until you see it through a thermal-imaging camera.

“I’m glad they picked us to do the test,” said Bryan Belt, Des Moines Airport director of engineering, “and we’re enthusiastic to get firsthand experience and firsthand eyes on it.”

Belt said the cost of heated concrete would determine if it could be placed on runways. He said it would make sense to use it on busy airport sidewalks first.

“You can keep those clear, and hopefully, you wouldn’t have to salt and sand as much and track all that into the terminal,” Belt said.

The ISU team needs more snow to continue testing, which hasn’t been a problem so far this winter.

“I think we were the happiest people in Iowa that it snowed,” Ceylan said.

Heated concrete costs about 50 percent more than regular concrete, but it could potentially eliminate airport costs for snowplows and personnel to clear runways.

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