Self-Heating Radiator Roads Save Cars From Icy Conditions

by , 12/03/09
filed under: automotive, Innovation

sustainable design, green design, thermal roads, self-heating roads, road, snow, heat, ice

It’s about that time of the year when roads start freezing over and cars slip-slide into accidents. Fortunately for drivers, Researchers at the University of Houston, Texas want to make these ice-related mishaps a thing of the past with self-heating roads that can keep ice from forming.

sustainable design, green design, thermal roads, self-heating roads, road, snow, heat, ice

The so-called road radiators consist of sheets of carbon nanofiber that heat concrete with help from an electrical element. Heating a block from -10 C to 0 C takes jut two hours and 6 watts of power. That’s a relatively small amount of energy, but heating up whole roads could be extremely power-intensive.

On the brighter side, paper embedded with carbon nanofibers is cheap since it is already used to make electrical components. And cutting down on salting and snowplowing could easily make up for energy lost through the concrete’s heating element.

We probably won’t see entire roads covered in self-heating concrete any time soon, but spots known for being icy or snowy might be ideal locations for carbon nanofiber-based heat. And if a little extra power is used to save lives, well, we’re all for it.

+ University of Houston

Via New Scientist

Lead photo by Martin Pettitt

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  1. PS December 11, 2009 at 1:11 am

    If the roads are warmer, more wild animals will want to be on the roads.

  2. rustolio December 7, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Not only is this energy intensive, but dangerous. If the temperature drops a few degrees, the road will turn to ice. I think -10C is a safer temp than 0C because as soon as you cross the melting point you have a mixture of snow and ice and water, rather than just dry snow.

  3. ADN FRS December 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Isn`t this suppose to be an environmental design blog? This seems like a ridiculous waste of energy. In this day and age are we not trying to decrease our energy consumption?
    We try to reduce the Heat Island Effect, not create it!

    I am surprised to see this on this site.

  4. Kirsten Corsaro December 3, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    This does seem like it would be very energy-intensive. I wonder if there may be other ways to help heat roads more efficiently.

  5. raincrow75 December 3, 2009 at 11:54 am

    As a mechanical engineer, I’m forced to design snowmelted driveways and patios all the time. The amount of energy they use is staggering. Before anything of this sort is undertaken on a large scale, a careful comparison of the energy to snowmelt vs the energy to salt or sand should be performed.

    A 4’x10′ sidewalk in Aspen, CO requires 2700 kBtu per year of snowmelt energy. (800 kWh of electricity, 3/4 ton CO2 or 2600 cubic feet of natural gas, 1/8 ton CO2) By these numbers, a mile of 25′ wide road would require 2500 MWh of electricity and would emit 2300 tons of CO2.

    I’d be interested to see numbers from a plow company or municipality on the salt and gas cost to maintain the same mile.


  6. radiators December 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Fundamentally this idea would be fantastic!

    But as you have mentioned the cost in operating such a system on all the roads aalongside maintenance would be extremely expensive.

  7. Tyrannous December 3, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Direct global warming

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