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Licensing deal aims to enable safer winter roads

Closeup of Xianming Shi
Xianming Shi

An anti-icing technology developed at Washington State University is being licensed by Fusione Corp., a Massachusetts-based snow and ice operations company, with the goal of creating environmentally responsible and sustainable snow and ice road treatments.

The licensing agreement comes out of research in which a WSU team developed liquid anti-icers incorporating grape extract and other agricultural waste. With a lower chloride content, the bio-based anti-icers outperform salt brine and the blended brines with organic derivatives that are currently used in the marketplace.

“This technology provides a great opportunity for us to make some real change and to develop regional solutions with regional products,” said Marc Valenti, principal of Fusione Corp. The company is a leader in snow and ice operations technology innovation in the Northeast.

“Fusione Corporation is the right partner with first-hand experience and the network to take this WSU technology to the marketplace,” said Rabindra Nanda, technology licensing associate in WSU’s Office of Commercialization. “They are the experts in the field.”

Every year, agencies use about 27 million tons of road salt on U.S. roadways for winter maintenance operations. Traditional deicers and anti-icers are corrosive to metals and detrimental to concrete, causing billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure. They contain chloride salts that do not degrade in the environment and pose long-term risks to aquatic animals and plants. Brine blends that contain current organic derivatives such as beet juice induce high oxygen demand in receiving waters and may pose a significant short-term risk to water quality.

Led by Xianming Shi, interim chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the National Center for Infrastructure Durability and Life Extension, the WSU team derived green chemicals from agricultural waste, including from Concord grape and apple waste, as well as from peony, sugar beet, and dandelion leaves. The technology greatly reduces impacts on water quality, infrastructure, and motor vehicles while maintaining outstanding anti-icing performance, says Shi. It can also be tailored, depending on what waste sources are available.

“This offers an exciting opportunity to close the ‘farm to road’ value loop,” he said.

In the Northeast, snow and ice control operations have generally required shipping additives over long distances from the Midwest, Valenti said. He often wondered if local waste from cranberries, blueberries, or apples could be used as deicer and anti-icer additives.

“The WSU technology created an opportunity to develop a regional deicing solution with regional green/eco products, which helps to reduce waste, lower transportation costs, and reduce carbon emissions while maintaining high performance,” he said.

The company is conducting research and development for commercial viability and hopes to implement field trials later this year.

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