Alternative Methods to De-ice Runways

Airport authorities continue to seek technological advancements that offer means to achieve safer aircraft ground operations during winter storm conditions, less-costly environmental compliance with US EPA storm water runoff regulations, and faster reopening of closed runways and taxiways due to winter storms.  

One tool airport operator’s use in the struggle to keep airplane movement areas clear of ice and snow during winter operations is to apply freezing point depressant (FPD) chemicals to pavement prior to a winter storm event.  The application of FPD’s is a proven method for preventing or weakening the bond between ice and the pavement surface.  This process, known as anti-icing has improved airport safety and has lessened the environmental impacts associated with FPD chemicals when used as deicers, i.e. after a storm event.

During the winter of 2002 a multi-year phased research effort commenced with a series of tests performed on three separate installations of textured aggregate coating systems at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center and Michigan Technological University, Keweenaw Research Center (KRC). This anti-icing technology known at present as “Anti-Icing Smart Pavement Overlays' was evaluated to determine the ability of the treated surfaces to retain anti-icing properties over a series of winter storm events and the durability of these surfaces under controlled traffic and snow removal operations.  The outcome of this study was that it is feasible to install the material over existing pavements. Additionally, the coating exhibited durability under limited winter storm events and traffic conditions.

A second phase of the study was conducted in cooperation with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to further evaluate the durability and performance characteristics of the system at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.  The Anti-Icing Coating was applied to a section of taxiway at O'Hare and observed and ed throughout the 2004-2005 winter season.  A report detailing the project is available in the Download section of this site.

Contact Project Lead Nick Subbotin

Last Update: 02/23/12