Researchers have projected a unique new solution to deal with unsafe icy roads in winter, putting forward an enhanced, safer method in a paper featured in the 30th Nov, 2017, issue of Applied Spectroscopy Reviews.
Experts have succeeded in detecting a problematic substance called 'hydrohalite', which develops on icy roads that have earlier been treated. Hydrohalite is generally left unremoved, since it does not respond to the standard de-icing method of road surface salting. Repeated salting will not remove it once it is formed.
Hydrohalit, invisible to the naked eye, can form on both pavements and roads, presenting a grave threat to all road users if kept untreated.
In order to find a solution, researchers recreated the conditions under which the hydrohalite substance develops, which enabled them to test the most effective way to combat it.
From experiments, they studied that hydrohalite can be effortlessly detected by employing Raman instruments, tiny devices capable of identifying the structure of a molecule and the existence of a substance.
Since hydrohalite and ice are extremely different structurally, Raman instruments fitted with lasers could thus be installed in snow ploughs and salt-spreading trucks, allowing an automated system or drivers to identify the most suitable method that will make the ice melt.
If hydrohalite is present, the driver could then switch to a more suitable de-icer, such as one mixed with gravel and sand, to guarantee that the road is completely safer and clear for road users.
As the nights get colder, we will again see the widespread use of salt to de-ice roads. However, this method will not work when hydrohalite has been formed, exposing the public to a serious risk of road traffic accidents. Equipping salt-spreading trucks with Raman detectors - essentially small boxes which would sit underneath the vehicles - would be a relatively straightforward solution, potentially reducing the number of road traffic accidents and even saving lives.
Dr. Rolf W. Berg, Associate Professor in the Technical University of Denmark's Department of Chemistry, Study author.