Recently I wrote about a new project from Leeds University to develop a smart city environment that was capable both of monitoring various infrastructures and then repair any that it found that needed maintenance.
Small robots will be developed that can both identify problems in areas such as utility piping, street lighting and road quality, before then fixing the problems themselves, all with minimal disruption to either the public or the environment.
Self de-icing roads
The project is part of a wider trend towards smart cities that can largely maintain themselves. For instance, a recent study highlights the potential for new road materials to de-ice itself, thus removing the need for authorities to grit the roads over winter.
Icy roads are the cause of a huge number of traffic incidents around the world each year, with winter maintenance costing huge sums each year.
Our traditional approaches to making our roads and pavements safe do a reasonable job but require constant maintenance to ensure roads are fit for vehicles to use.
The researchers developed a salt potassium formate that was mixed with the styrene-butadiene-styrene polymer and then added in with bitumen to be laid on the road.
The new road surface proved just as durable as traditional bitumen based surfaces, and it proved effective at delaying the formation of ice, albeit only in a lab environment.
The new surface was capable of releasing salt evenly across the road for two months in the lab environment, but the researchers believe it can achieve longer durations in real environments.
The paper highlights that the process of driving over the surface is sufficient to trigger a constant release of the salt-polymer, as the traffic wears away the top layer, thus releasing new salt from below.
They believe that this process could continue for years, although it isn’t clear whether gritted roads are something that is wanted during warmer months when snow and ice is not a problem.
It’s certainly an interesting approach however and one to keep tabs on.