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Real-time reaction, autonomous and energy-efficient snowmelt technology for lightly and heavily trafficked pavement surfaces.

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Snowless (Real-time reaction, autonomous and energy-efficient snowmelt technology for lightly and heavily trafficked pavement surfaces.)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2021-08-31

Due to the reduction of skid resistance of pavement surfaces caused by snow and ice, severe economic losses and injuries related to transport are provoked. Winter conditions on roads cause traffic delays that cost 1% of EU GDP and 1,000 causalities annually. Similarly, snow fall causes air traffic disturbance that can cost €57.3M per storm. For pedestrians, it a major health issue as an increase of 25% increase in hospitalization and 33% rise in cases of hip fractures is observed during the winter season. Current solutions suffer from many shortcomings. The most popular, plowing and salting, is manual, has low response times, damages traffic surfaces, vehicle corrosion and environment pollution.
So, effective ice prevention is of main importance. The SNOWLESS project, an instant de-icing, energy-efficient solution, overcomes those drawbacks using our proprietary amorphous alloy heating ribbons that are embedded in pavements and completely automatic control unit with a real-time dynamic response, which convert electrical energy into direct radiant heat energy for melting snow on the surface
Our solution is environmentally friendly, prevents asphalt cracking by reducing the temperature amplitude, and promotes self-healing in the asphalt itself.
We intend to commercialize SNOWLESS 3 years after development, ideally by 2021 in 2 phases, with an initial introduction to shopping malls parking, which have less stringent requirements, and then progress to difficult applications such as airports and road infrastructure. We anticipate revenue and profit of €50M and €15M respectively coming from sales over five years, creating 21 employment opportunities in the process.
Concerning the developments in the final quarter of Period 3, it is shown that our heating system can provide a solution, not only for melting snow and preventing ice formation, it can also help prevent low-temperature cracking. Thus, we plan to place some focus on applications where low-temperature cracking is business-critical (e.g. logistics areas).
Thus far, the following was performed: (i) development of first-generation mathematical models to account for heat requirements based prevailing weather conditions, (ii) development of a computational framework for modeling ribbons in an asphalt pavement structure, (iii) mechanical testing of ribbons, (iv) construction and testing of a grooving machine prototype, (v) planning and design of new ribbon coating and connectors; and (vi) planning and design of new control software and hardware, (vii) construction and testing of new control unit prototype, (viii) construction of a full-scale heated asphalt road carrying heavy forklift traffic in DTU campus, and (ix) start of two installation pilots in The Netherlands. Moreover, we have further developed our modeling tools to simulate reality; we noticed that electrical heating can be potentially utilized – not only to melt snow and prevent ice formation – but also to protect asphalt pavements against low-temperature cracking as well as suppress the deep penetration of a frost front into the subgrade.
Snow and ice can cause severe traffic disturbances resulting in enormous economic losses and fatal or serious injuries. It is a common problem to which there is no efficient solution. Snowless overcome all the shortcomings: it consumes 30-60% less energy compared to current systems, while enabling 300% faster response time. All these benefits are packaged in one green solution at very low initial investment and annual costs much lower than alternative solutions for the same conditions. It becomes operational within 15 minutes to melt snow before it can accumulate thanks to our real-time control system and high heat transfer rates of the amorphous alloy, eliminating delays. Current installation costs will be reduced around 30%. Extra redundancy will be developed to increase ribbon lifetime and bring maintenance cost to zero. SNOWLESS has 3 times lower heat loss, and it is designed to be powered by electricity thus making it compatible with renewable energy sources. Our system has already achieved low annual operational costs of €1.6/m2 for implementations in Canada.
It is expected that the project will terminate with a practical method for installing heating ribbons in asphalt pavements over wide areas, in a smart control unit that can operate the ribbons efficiently, and ultimately in a cost-effective and validated solution for facility owners that can replace traditional salting and mechanical snow clearing operations. These advances are over and above the current state of the practice; they will be driven by scientific understanding of the problem from both thermal and mechanical facets and will generate new journal and conference articles as well as a PhD graduate.
During Period 3, we explored a new and unconventional application of our electric heating system – not for combating snow and ice – but for mitigating low-temperature cracking. The investigation was done in silico, considering a stratified medium to represent the asphalt pavement system, a thin heat-generating layer to represent the heating system, and measured weather conditions from Greenland to emulate a cold region that can potentially produce thermal cracking. A thermomechanical model was developoed, consisting of a one-dimensional thermal formulation that accounts (also) for latent heat effects, and a three-dimensional mechanical formulation based on linear viscoelasticity that assumes thermo-rheological simplicity. A cold-weather event, leading to a thermal crack, was identified by the thermomechanical model. Additionally, a parametric investigation was carried out to quantify the effects of the heating system’s embedment depth and heating production on the activation timing needed to prevent cracking. It is found that mitigating low-temperature cracking with an embedded electric heating system is attainable and workable.
Additional work was carried out concerning another atypical application of our Snowless solution – the possibility to actively suppress frost penetration during seasonal cold weather conditions. A thermal model was outlined for the investigation; it considered the one-dimensional heat equation applied to a multi-layer medium. The model also included latent heat effects due to moisture freezing and thawing and a buried heat source representing the operation of a heating system. Calculations based on cold-climate weather data from northern Finland were performed to track the evolution of the frost front depth in a given pavement. Then, model calculations were repeated with the heating activated. A parametric study was performed with different heat production intensities and several embedment depths. Results demonstrated that embedded electric heating can considerably affect the peak depth of frost penetration into the pavement structure and subgrade. A heating system was also demonstrated to shorten the time during which the medium experienced freezing temperatures. Overall, the idea of actively protecting asphalt pavements against frost action with an embedded electrical heating system is deemed effective and feasible.
Heating system attached to iron mesh. Grotius The Hague
ASML Docking stations. Ribbons attached to iron mesh and integrated in concrete
Grooving machine in Woerden: also grooving in curves
DTU Pilot installation: paving & thermal images of asphalt with system operating
Snowless during manual melting on February 2021
Steady-state temperature field for five horizontally oriented ribbons
An asphalt road with near-surface heating ribbons