12/11/2023 | Environmental | 18 MINUTE READ
Salt Brine for Roads & Liquid Deicing
When getting rid of ice on roadways, among the more effective solutions used on these roadways is salt brine, which is a fundamental mixture of 23 percent salt and 77 percent water. This mixture is typically applied to roadways before the onset of a storm, which helps ensure that any ice or snow that falls doesn’t stick to the roads. When salt brine is placed on the roadways before a storm, it becomes easier for ice and snow to be plowed from the streets after the storm. If salt brine is used correctly, you won’t need to apply standard road salt to the roadways after the storm, which can reduce your overall costs.
Salt brine is highly effective for areas of cold temperatures where snow falls regularly because a brine solution allows for a liquid to be applied to the road, which makes it much better for preventing ice and snow accumulation when compared to standard rock salt. Unless rock salt combines with brine, it won’t be able to prevent snow from accumulating, which is why salt brine is recommended for preventing the accumulation of ice and snow. Salt brine is also commonly used for many other applications, which include everything from preserving food to purifying water. This article explains how and why salt brine is applied to roads for liquid deicing purposes.
How to Treat Asphalt, Brick, and Concrete surfaces
Whether treating an asphalt or brick surface, you must use the right solution to ensure snow or ice doesn’t stick to the surface. The three primary treatments used on asphalt, brick, and concrete surfaces include anti-icing, deicing, and Direct Liquid Treatment.
This unique treatment solution aims to prevent the buildup of ice or snow on roadways. The deicing material you use should be applied to the surface before the snow or ice event, which will keep the snow or ice from bonding to the surface. If you use a brine solution, it must be placed on the roadway before it snows. While anti-icing is typically used to reduce the amount of snow accumulating on roadways, it’s also effective at removing black ice. Keep in mind that brine is most effective at temperatures that are at or above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
This technique involves placing a deicing material on the roadway only after the ice or snow event, meaning the snow will already be bonded to the surface. For deicing to be effective, the road must first be plowed. It’s important to understand that plowing is the most affordable technique for removing ice and snow from a road. Suppose you place the deicing material on the road before using a plow. In that case, the deicing material will eventually be removed from the road when you plow it, reducing its efficacy.
As mentioned previously, you shouldn’t use a deicing material on the road if the pavement temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a plow truck or flatbed to release the deicing agent onto the road. If you use a brine solution, ensure the liquid is applied consistently to the roadways. Once applied, the surfaces should only be damp. Placing too much brine on the road increases the costs for no added benefit.
Direct Liquid Application (DLA)
Direct Liquid Application is an advanced technique that you can use to apply the liquid treatment solution you use directly to the roadway in question. This solution is typically a salt brine with 23 percent salt and 77 percent water. Depending on your goal, you can use DLA before or after a snowstorm.
It’s also possible to use this technique to prevent black ice from forming. If you reapply the solution to the roadway every two hours while a snowstorm is ongoing, black ice shouldn’t start. While each snow or ice storm is different, DLA should be highly effective. Using this specific technique saves money on materials, reduces post-storm cleanup requirements, and produces instantaneous results.
Rock Salt vs. Salt Brine for Roads
When you’re attempting to prevent black ice or clear up roadways following a snowstorm, you must use the ideal solution that’s highly effective without being too costly. The two primary solutions available to you include rock salt and salt brine, which have distinct advantages.
Salt Brine is a simple solution that’s comprised of 23 percent salt and 77 percent water. When combining salt and water, the solution you end up with will have a lower freezing point than water that doesn’t include salt. As such, applying salt brine to roadways can lessen how much ice and snow adheres to the roads. Making a brine with magnesium chloride, sodium chloride, or calcium chloride is possible. The exact freezing point of brine depends on how much salt you add to the water.
As for rock salt, this substance is similar to table salt without being as refined. This salt consists of sodium chloride crystals that can be applied to roads after the snowstorm and the streets have been plowed. While brine can stop snow or freezing rain from sticking to the roadways, rock salt cannot be mixed with a brine solution. Many agencies that opt to use rock salt will do so in an attempt to create a brine solution. The brine should be made if the rock salt mixes with freezing rain, ice, or snow.
The main problem with using rock salt is that the amount of rock salt you use will need to increase as the temperature dips. It’s also important to understand that around 20 percent of rock salt spread over the road will bounce off the surface, which means you need to use more of the solution to provide similar results to salt brine. Because of the inherent issues and drawbacks of using rock salt, it’s highly recommended that you opt for salt brine.
How to Remove Salt Brine From Your Car
The only problem with salt brine is that the solution tends to stick to cars. While salt brine is very effective at keeping snow and ice from sticking to the road, it can also damage your vehicle. When you drive over a brine solution, it will coat the underside of your car. Unfortunately, water and salt can cause steel and iron to rust, which means that your vehicle will be damaged if you don’t quickly wash the brine off your car.
To that end, you should use Salt Away, a potent concentrate that can be mixed with water and sprayed onto your vehicle. When this solution comes into contact with the brine on your car, it will dissolve and eradicate any remaining salt on the surface, which isn’t possible with water alone. This substance can be used on any surface. Because a salt and water combination is highly corrosive, using Salt Away should prevent rust from developing.
Measuring the Concentration of Salt Brine
If you want to maintain the right mixture of salt and water for your salt brine solution, you must measure the concentration of salt brine. For roads to be deiced appropriately, you must use the right mixture of salt and water, known to be 23 percent salt and 77 percent water. When you obtain this exact measurement, the solution’s freezing point will be -6 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows it to be effective at a wide range of surface temperatures.
If you decide to use salt brine to preserve grape leaves or other foods, you would better benefit from a salt concentration that’s situated between 3.5 and 10.0 percent. If you control the concentration of the brine solution, you can more effectively deice your roads, which reduces the overall costs. Conductivity is vital in making salt brine since conductivity determines how well a solution can conduct electricity.
While pure water has a low conductivity because of the low amount of particles and contaminants within, salt brine will invariably come with a high conductivity reading of at least 72 mS/cm. To use conductivity to make salt brine, you will need to choose a conductivity sensor with a cell constant, ensuring that your measurements are precise and wholly accurate. With the suitable conductivity sensor, your salt brine solution will be ready for deicing when the winter arrives.
Getting rid of the ice and snow accumulating on roads can be difficult if you decide to use rock salt. Even though rock salt can be effective at getting rid of snow and ice once the salt mixes in with the water on the ground, it’s unable to prevent the liquid from sticking to the road in the first place, which is why you should consider using salt brine. The solution is easy to make and should provide you with fantastic results.
Environmental Impacts of Salt Brine: A Closer Look
While salt brine is undeniably effective at deicing roads, ensuring its long-term use requires a comprehensive understanding of its potential environmental impact. This section delves deeper into the concerns surrounding salt brine and its consequences for various ecosystems.
Water Contamination and Aquatic Life
The primary environmental concern associated with salt brine is the contamination of water sources with chlorine. When salt brine melts snow and ice, the runoff carries chloride into streams, rivers, and groundwater. This can lead to exceeding safe chloride levels in these water bodies, posing a significant threat to aquatic life.
Excessive chloride can disrupt the delicate balance of freshwater ecosystems, leading to:
- Decreased biodiversity: Increased chloride levels can harm or kill sensitive fish, amphibians, and insects, reducing overall species diversity in the ecosystem.
- Reduced water quality: High chloride concentrations can make water unsuitable for drinking and irrigation, impacting human health and agricultural productivity.
- Bioaccumulation: Certain aquatic organisms can accumulate chloride in their tissues, potentially harming higher predators in the food chain.
Soil Erosion and Vegetation Damage
Salt brine applied in large quantities can harm soil and vegetation. The high salt content alters soil chemistry, making it more susceptible to erosion. This can lead to:
- Loss of topsoil: Erosion removes fertile topsoil, reducing agricultural productivity and increasing the risk of soil degradation.
- Plant damage: Direct contact with salt spray from vehicles driving on treated roads can damage roadside vegetation, impacting plant health and aesthetics.
Salt brine’s corrosive nature threatens various infrastructure elements like bridges, roads, and metal structures. Chloride ions in the brine accelerate the rusting and deterioration of these structures, leading to:
- Increased maintenance costs: Regular repairs and replacements due to corrosion can become a significant financial burden for municipalities.
- Safety hazards: Deteriorating infrastructure can pose safety risks to pedestrians and motorists, requiring costly upgrades and repairs.
Mitigating the Impact
While the environmental impacts of salt brine require careful consideration, several strategies can be employed to mitigate its adverse effects:
- Limiting application: Implementing targeted application strategies and opting for lower-salt formulations can minimize chloride runoff.
- Improved infrastructure: Replacing aging infrastructure with salt-resistant materials can reduce the impact of corrosion.
- Vegetation management: Planting salt-tolerant plants along roadsides can help protect vegetation from damage.
- Public awareness: Educating the public about the environmental impact of salt brine can encourage individual actions like car washing and responsible salt use.
Through responsible use, informed planning, and ongoing research, we can leverage the effectiveness of salt brine while minimizing its environmental footprint. This requires a collaborative effort from municipalities, environmental agencies, and individuals to ensure safe and sustainable winter road maintenance.
Beyond Salt Brine: Exploring Alternative Deicing Solutions
Meanwhile, salt brine reigns supreme in winter road management for its effectiveness, environmental concerns, and cost, which necessitate exploring alternative deicing solutions. This section delves into the options available, each with its advantages and disadvantages, to help navigate the decision-making process and find the best fit for specific needs.
Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)
- Pros: CMA is a less corrosive and environmentally friendly alternative to salt brine. It boasts effectiveness at lower temperatures and a lower environmental impact, making it a popular choice for sensitive areas.
- Cons: CMA has a steeper price tag than salt brine and may only be readily available in some regions.
Beet Juice and Corn Syrup
- Pros: These natural alternatives offer a non-corrosive and biodegradable solution for deicing. Additionally, their lower environmental impact makes them appealing to eco-conscious communities.
- Cons: The effectiveness of beet juice and corn syrup dwindles at lower temperatures, limiting their use in colder climates. Furthermore, their susceptibility to decomposition can lead to unpleasant odors, requiring more frequent application.
Sand and Gravel
- Pros: These readily available and affordable materials enhance traction on icy roads, providing immediate safety benefits.
- Cons: While practical for improving traction, sand and gravel do not melt ice, requiring additional deicing methods. Moreover, their abrasive nature can damage road surfaces, necessitating more frequent maintenance.
Choosing the Right Alternative
The optimal alternative to salt brine depends on careful consideration of various factors:
- Climate: Colder regions requiring effective deicing at lower temperatures may prioritize CMA or salt brine, while warmer climates might be better suited for beet juice or corn syrup.
- Budget: CMA’s higher cost may be a deterrent for some, while sand and gravel offer a more budget-friendly option.
- Environmental Concerns: Communities prioritizing environmental protection may opt for CMA or beet juice/corn syrup due to their lower environmental impact than salt brine.
Beyond These Options
Beyond the traditional alternatives, ongoing research and development are paving the way for innovative deicing solutions:
- Bio-based deicers: These eco-friendly alternatives are derived from renewable resources and offer a promising sustainable approach to deicing.
- Electric road heating systems: This technology utilizes electricity to heat the road surface, preventing ice and snow accumulation. While energy-intensive, it presents an effective solution in specific situations.
The search for the perfect deicing solution continues, balancing effectiveness, environmental impact, and affordability. By considering the various alternatives available and staying abreast of emerging technologies, communities can make informed decisions that ensure safe winter roads while minimizing their ecological footprint.
Optimizing Salt Brine Use: Essential Guidelines
To maximize the effectiveness of salt brine while minimizing its environmental impact, meticulous adherence to specific guidelines is crucial. These guidelines can be categorized into three key areas: application, storage & handling, and safety.
- Applying the Right Amount: Determining the appropriate amount of salt brine involves two primary factors: temperature and anticipated snowfall. Applying too much brine can be wasteful, leading to unnecessary environmental impact and increased costs. Conversely, using too little will not effectively deice the roads, potentially compromising safety.
- Temperature: Each temperature requires a specific salt concentration in the brine solution to achieve optimal melting efficiency. Consulting established guidelines or using specialized tools like refractometers can ensure the correct ratio is achieved.
- Expected Snowfall: The anticipated amount of snowfall should guide the application rate. Heavy snowfall will require a higher application rate than lighter snowfalls to achieve timely and effective deicing.
- Storage and Handling: Proper storage and handling of salt brine are essential to prevent spills, ensure its effectiveness, and protect workers’ safety. Salt brine should be stored in a cool, dry location, ideally in designated containers that prevent leaks and contamination. Temperature fluctuations can affect the concentration and effectiveness of the brine, necessitating consistent temperature control.
- Handling: Workers handling salt brine should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, and boots to prevent contact with the solution. Additionally, designated spill containment measures should be readily available to address any accidental spills promptly and minimize environmental damage.
- Safety Precautions: Prioritizing worker safety is paramount when using salt brine. Implementing proper safety measures can prevent accidents and ensure a healthy work environment.
- PPE: Workers applying salt brine should wear appropriate PPE, including gloves, goggles, and boots. This protects them from potential splashes and skin irritation.
- Training: Workers should receive comprehensive training on safely handling and applying salt brine. This includes understanding the potential risks, proper PPE usage, and emergency response procedures.
- Signage and Communication: Clear signage and communication protocols should be established to alert drivers and pedestrians of areas treated with salt brine. This minimizes the risk of accidents and ensures public safety.
By meticulously following these guidelines, we can maximize the benefits of salt brine while minimizing its environmental impact and ensuring the safety of both workers and the public. Responsible use and awareness are essential for maintaining safe winter roads while preserving the environment.
Glimpse into the Future: Emerging Deicing Technologies on the Horizon
While traditional deicing methods have served us well, the future promises innovative advancements that offer safer, more sustainable solutions. Several promising technologies are currently in development, each holding the potential to revolutionize winter road maintenance:
- Bio-based Deicers: These eco-friendly alternatives are derived from renewable resources like agricultural byproducts, offering a significant advantage over traditional deicers. Not only are they less harmful to the environment, but they also contribute to the circular economy by utilizing waste materials. Preliminary research indicates comparable effectiveness to existing deicers, particularly in milder climates.
- Electric Road Heating: This innovative technology utilizes electricity-powered embedded heating elements beneath the road surface. Maintaining a slightly elevated temperature prevents snow and ice accumulation, ensuring safe and clear roads even in the harshest winter conditions. While currently energy-intensive, advancements in renewable energy sources and heat-efficient designs promise a more environmentally sustainable future for this technology.
- Automated Snow Removal Systems: Imagine roads that automatically clear themselves of snow and ice! This vision may soon become a reality with the development of mechanical snow removal systems. These systems can detect snowfall and deploy snowplows and deicing mechanisms autonomously utilizing sensors and robotic technology, significantly improving efficiency and reducing reliance on manual labor. Additionally, they have the potential to operate round-the-clock, ensuring continuous road safety even during heavy snowfall events.
- Emerging Deicing Agents: Beyond these specific technologies, ongoing research continuously explores and develops novel deicing agents with improved effectiveness and reduced environmental impact. Promising areas include nanotechnology, Which utilizes nanoparticles to enhance the melting capabilities of deicers while minimizing their ecological footprint.
- Cryoprotectants: Utilizing ice-binding proteins to prevent ice formation on road surfaces, potentially reducing deicing requirements.
- Microencapsulation: Encapsulating deicing materials in biodegradable polymers to control release rates and minimize environmental impact.
A Brighter Future for Winter Roads
These emerging technologies offer a glimpse into a future where winter road maintenance is safer, more efficient, and environmentally responsible. As research progresses and these technologies mature, they hold the potential to significantly improve winter driving conditions while minimizing the impact on our environment. The future of winter road maintenance promises to be brighter, ensuring safe and smooth travel even during the harshest winter months.
Striking the Right Balance: Costs and Benefits of Salt Brine
Choosing salt brine as a deicing method requires carefully considering its costs and benefits. This section delves deeper into the financial and ecological implications of using salt brine, helping you determine if it’s optimal for your needs.
The overall cost of using salt brine varies depending on several factors, including:
- Salt Price: Salt, a significant brine component, can fluctuate depending on market conditions and availability.
- Transportation Costs: The distance from salt production facilities to application sites significantly impacts transportation costs.
- Storage Requirements: Investing in proper storage facilities to maintain the quality and effectiveness of the brine comes with additional costs.
However, salt brine is often more cost-effective than alternative deicing methods. This is particularly true when compared to expensive technologies like snow-melting systems.
While the environmental impact of salt brine requires attention, it can offer some benefits compared to other deicing methods:
- Reduced Runoff: Salt brine, with its lower salt concentration than rock salt, minimizes the amount of salt runoff into waterways.
- Lower Dust Generation: Compared to sand and gravel, salt brine generates significantly less dust, improving air quality and reducing respiratory issues.
- Improved Fuel Efficiency: Brine-treated roads generally require less traction, leading to improved fuel efficiency for vehicles driving on them.
Safety and Efficiency
The use of salt brine directly translates to improved safety on icy roads by:
- Enhanced Traction: Salt brine effectively melts snow and ice, providing better vehicle grip and reducing the risk of accidents.
- Faster Response: Brine can be applied quickly and efficiently, ensuring timely response to snowfall events and minimizing disruptions.
- Lower Maintenance: By preventing ice accumulation, salt brine reduces the need for frequent plowing and re-paving, leading to lower maintenance costs for infrastructure.
Weighing the Options
Ultimately, the decision to use salt brine requires careful consideration of the specific needs and priorities of the community. Evaluating the cost-benefit ratio, environmental impact, and safety implications alongside alternative deicing methods is crucial for making an informed and responsible choice.
Salt brine offers a compelling balance of effectiveness, affordability, and environmental considerations, making it a popular choice for many communities. However, staying informed about emerging technologies and adopting responsible use practices remains essential for optimizing its benefits while minimizing its environmental footprint.
Salt brine remains a vital tool in the winter road maintenance arsenal, offering a balance of effectiveness, cost-efficiency, and environmental benefits compared to other deicing methods. While its ecological impact requires careful consideration, responsible use, informed planning, and ongoing research can help mitigate its downsides. We can ensure safe and sustainable winter roads for future generations by embracing emerging technologies and best practices. Ultimately, the future of winter road maintenance lies in striking the right balance between effectiveness, environmental responsibility, and affordability, with salt brine playing a vital role in this ongoing journey toward a safer and more sustainable winter.
Posted by Joshua Samp on December 11, 2023
Sensorex is a global leader in the design and manufacture of quality sensors for water quality and process applications. The company offers more than 2000 sensor packages for pH, ORP, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, free chlorine, chlorine dioxide, UV transmittance and other specialty measurements, as well as a full line of sensor accessories and transmitters. Its expert technical support engineers solve analytical sensor challenges with custom designs and off the shelf products.