No more winter train delays?

A NASA-developed, environmentally friendly anti-icing fluid that can make railroad and commuter travel safer and more reliable during snowy conditions is now available for commercial applications.

Under license from NASA’s Ames Research Centre, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. of Canton, Ohio, has produced several commercial products that reportedly prevent the build-up of ice and snow on railways, providing a smooth ride for passengers and helping to eliminate transit system delays and shutdowns due to weather conditions.

‘This anti-icing fluid, if applied before freezing conditions are encountered, will prevent ice from forming,’ explained Dr. John Zuk of Ames, one of the developers of the technology. ‘The fluid also can be applied to an already-frozen surface to melt the snow and ice.’

The environmentally friendly anti-icing fluid originally was developed by NASA Ames researchers in the 1990s to replace highly toxic and non-biodegradable anti-icing fluids used in the aerospace industry. ‘Current aircraft anti-icing fluids are not environmentally friendly,’ Zuk said. ‘Ames’ development, however, is an essentially non-toxic, totally biodegradable and non-corrosive material that improves travel conditions without polluting the environment.’

The fluid can be pressure-sprayed, applied with a brush or poured, depending on the application. When a small amount of the fluid is sprayed on the surface to be protected, a very thin fluid film is formed. If applied before freezing conditions are encountered, the fluid will prevent rain or dew from freezing on the object and will melt fallen snow upon contact.

It also can be applied to melt pre-existing snow and ice, and it prevents refreezing of the object. One of the unique characteristics of the fluid is its strong resistance to the effects of gravity, which prevents removal of the protective coat by rain, snow, wind or gravity-induced run-off.

The anti-icing fluid may potentially be used on bridges, streets, runways, ships and boats, cars and even around homes, for pavements and roofs. ‘Because the fluid is neither an acid nor a base, it will not corrode steel and reinforced concrete, so roadways and bridges can be safely treated with the fluid,’ said Zuk. ‘Similarly, vehicles will avoid the body-corrosion typically associated with the use of road salt,’ he added.