For the past two decades there have been a number of ideas and research projects designed to make self-heating concretes a reality, but a project at the University of Houston is getting real traction. Mechanical engineering graduate student Christiana Chang is embedding carbon nanofiber paper in concrete.
"This piece of paper also conducts electricity- maybe not as much as metal- but it actually gets hot when you put electricity through it," said Chang,
Chang is conducting the research with the help of her advisor, Gangbing Song, a professor of mechanical engineering.
"We did a feasibility study, and it was quite amazing," said Song. "This technology has some advantages over traditional technologies."
While you might not see widespread use of the technology in long stretches of highway, the research is paving the way for self-heating surfaces in critical operations. Chang said potential uses include bridges, hospital and police driveways, and airport runways.
"There is no reason you can't start with your component of a project here in Houston and not take it to the next step with collaboration somewhere else," said Chang.
The next step is testing the self-heating concrete in a cold weather environment. A proposal to build a self-heating sidewalk at the University of Alaska is underway.
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