New laser technology may reduce accidents on icy roads

LONDON: Researchers have come up with an innovative laser technology that uses Raman spectroscopy which may help avoid road accidents on icy roads during winters.

They have detected a problematic substance known as ‘hydrohalite’, which forms on icy roads.

Hydrohalite is normally left unremoved, as it does not respond to the conventional de-icing method of road surface salting. Once formed, repeated salting will not remove it, according to the researchers at the Technical University of Denmark.

Invisible to the naked eye, hydrohalite can form on both roads and pavements, presenting a serious threat to all road users if left untreated.

The findings, published in the journal Applied Spectroscopy Reviews, suggest that hydrohalite can be easily detected by using Raman spectroscopy, which can identify the structure of a molecule and the presence of a substance.

Since ice and hydrohalite are very different structurally, Raman instruments fitted with lasers could therefore be installed in salt-spreading trucks and snow ploughs, allowing drivers or an automated system to identify the most appropriate method to make the ice melt.

If hydrohalite was found, the driver could then switch to a more appropriate de-icer, such as one mixed with sand and gravel, to ensure the road is completely clear and safer for road users.

“Equipping salt-spreading trucks with Raman detectors – essentially small boxes which would sit underneath the vehicles – would be a relatively straightforward solution,” said Rolf W Berg, from the Technical University of Denmark.

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