Road Deicers of the Future: Made From Beets, Tomatoes and Barley?


Trying to make icy roads less treacherous for motorists is tough enough; doing so in an environmentally appropriate way has been nearly impossible. Millions of tons of salt and chemical deicers are dumped on the nation's highways by road crews for good reason—the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that deicing reduces winter road crashes by as much as 90 percent.

But researchers at Washington State University want to pave the way toward more environmentally friendly methods of reducing ice and snow on roads. The Associated Press reports that WSU is teaming up with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and Montana State University to conduct a study for the newly formed "Center for Environmentally Sustainable Transportation in Cold Climates."

It's not just the environment that could benefit from an alternative. The center estimates that the U.S. spends $2.3 billion annually to remove highway snow and ice, plus another $5 billion to mitigate the hidden costs, including the impacts of salt and chemical deicers on the environment and roads.

One WSU researcher said she's particularly interested in the development of less corrosive deicers made from beet and tomato juice. She's also working on an alternative ice-melt made of barley residue from vodka distilleries.