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

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - Snowless (Real-time reaction, autonomous and energy-efficient snowmelt technology for lightly and heavily trafficked pavement surfaces.)

Reporting period: 2021-09-01 to 2022-08-31

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 the EU’s GDP and 1,000 causalities annually. Similarly, snowfall causes air traffic disturbance that can cost €57.3M per storm. For pedestrians, a 25% increase in hospitalization and a 33% rise in cases of hip fractures are observed during winter. Current solutions suffer from many shortcomings. The most popular are plowing and salting which are manual, offer slow response times, damage pavement surfaces, accelerate vehicle corrosion, and induce environmental pollution. Thus, effective snow and ice prevention is a challenge.
The SNOWLESS project offers an energy-efficient and instant snow-melting and de-icing solution. It overcomes the above-stated drawbacks by using proprietary amorphous alloy heating ribbons that are embedded in pavements and operated completely automatically via a control unit with a real-time dynamic response. Essentially, Snowless converts electrical energy into radiant heat energy for melting snow on the surface, being an environmentally friendly solution when the electricity comes from renewable and green sources. In addition to combating snow and ice, the Snowless system can be operated to prevent low-temperature cracking of asphalt concrete layers and limit the depth and duration of frost penetration into pavement structures and subgrade.
We aim to commercialize Snowless by 2023 for infrastructure applications such as city roads, seaports, airports, and highways. We anticipate revenue and profit of €50M and €15M respectively coming from sales over 5 years, creating 21 employment opportunities.
During the project it has been shown that Snowless heating system is a solution, not only for melting snow and preventing surface ice, but can also prevent low-temperature cracking of asphalt concrete. an added feature which transforms pavement systems, traditionally passive, into active climate-resilient constructions
Main results in the project have been: development of first-generation mathematical models to account for heat requirements based prevailing weather conditions, development of a computational framework for modeling ribbons in an asphalt pavement structure, mechanical testing of ribbons, construction and testing of a grooving machine prototype, planning and design of new ribbon coating and connectors; planning and designing of new control software and hardware, construction and testing of new control unit prototype, construction of a full-scale heated asphalt road carrying heavy forklift traffic in DTU campus, and 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 pavement structures and subgrades.
We have constructed a full-scale demonstration project in a logistics center (Edenkoben, Germany) to validate the idea of preventing low-temperature cracking. 2 side-by-side asphalt sections were constructed with very “stiff” asphalt concrete that is prone to low-temperature cracking. The Snowless system was installed in one of the sections, while the other served as a reference. A new algorithm was included in the Snowless controller to track the likelihood of thermal cracking and activate the heating to prevent it.
We have also constructed a Snowless test section in DuraBASt a full-scale research and demonstration facility in Cologne, Germany where innovative ideas in road engineering are evaluated by the German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt). The Snowless section there was split into 3 parts: reference - no heating ribbons; vertically installed ribbons (saw-cutting), and horizontally installed ribbons (grooving). The purpose of this installation is to evaluate the Snowless effect of the mechanical behavior of heavy-duty pavements. This installation will provide evidence to the industry that Snowless does not adversely affect the structural integrity of pavement systems. Doing so in a high-profile location such as the duraBASt will effectively differentiate Snowless from any other pavement heating technology, providing future clients with the confidence to choose Snowless as their preferred active technology for snow-melting
Snow and ice can cause severe traffic disturbances resulting in economic losses and serious injuries. Snowless overcome all the shortcomings: it consumes 30-60% less energy compared to current systems, while enabling a faster response time. It becomes operational within 15 min to melt snow before it accumulates thanks to our real-time control system and high heat transfer rates of the amorphous alloy, avoiding delays. Extra redundancy has been developed to increase system 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.
The project has finished with a practical method for installing heating ribbons in asphalt pavements over wide areas, with 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 snow clearing operations. These advances are over and above the current state of the practice. The project has brought a scientific understanding of the problem from both thermal and mechanical facets, has generated new journal and conference articles and a PhD graduate.
Additionally, Snowless provides an unconventional application not only combating snow and ice but 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 where thermal cracking usually happens. A novel thermomechanical model was developed, the model allows identifying cold-weather event, leading to a thermal crack. 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; concluding that mitigating low-temperature cracking with an embedded electric heating system is attainable and workable.
Additionally, Snowless provides another atypical application such as actively suppressing frost penetration during cold weather conditions. A thermal model was outlined for the investigation; basing the calculations on cold-climate weather data from northern Finland to track the evolution of the frost front depth in a given pavement. Results demonstrated that our Snowless embedded electric heating can considerably affect the peak depth of frost penetration into the pavement structure and subgrade. Snowless demonstrated to shorten the time during which the medium experienced freezing temperatures. So, the idea of actively protecting asphalt pavements against frost action with an embedded electrical heating system as Snowless is effective and feasible
Steady-state temperature field for five horizontally oriented ribbons
An asphalt road with near-surface heating ribbons