Once snow and ice blanket the road, the dangers of driving skyrocket.
“Once you have cars driving, the dynamics of the ice and snow change [because of the movement of the vehicles], and in a place such as a highway exit, the [risk of] injuries or fatalities goes up,” says Yonatan Elimelech, a partner at Israeli-based engineering firm SAN Hitech Ltd.
Going on the wintry offensive, Elimelech coordinated a project dubbed Snowless that’s developing an autonomous ice-melting technology for roadways, which embeds a metal ribbon mesh into the pavement’s surface.
The system’s sensors survey up-to-date surface temperatures, and correlate its findings with weather forecasts and the power requirements to heat up the mesh ribbons. If all the data points to snow and ice, the system automatically activates.
When installing the technology into new roads, concrete or asphalt is poured on top of the heating components and sensors, all of which are unrolled in a mesh. For older structures, ribbons can be inserted into slits in the road, cut by a grooving machine.
According to Rex Merrifield from Horizon: The EU Research & Innovation Magazine, “The 25 mm-wide elements are produced with a metal alloy that provides rapid heating when an electric current is passed through it. The ribbons absorb little heat themselves, but radiate warmth to typically melt problem ice within 15 minutes.” The system can also operate in harsh wintertime temperatures, down to -50°C (-58°F).
The technology has already proven its worth in Canada, smaller roads, parking lots, pavements, and de-icing sports fields. As the system develops its algorithms for roads with dense traffic, potential applications expand to bridges and highway exits.
“We intend commercialize Snowless 3 years after development, ideally by 2021 in two phases, with initial introduction to shopping mall parkings, which have less stringent requirements and then progress to difficult applications such [as] airports and road infrastructure,” according to Snowless’ fact sheet.
Due to the system’s ability to react to the changing weather conditions, it consumes a low amount of energy.
“In the future, changes in the energy market will take into account environmental impact, and in addition to our system not relying on fossil fuels, it is also very efficient,” says Elimelech. “Because of its electrical efficiency, it can be powered by renewables.”