And the roads will run with beet juice

sugar beet from groundTucked into a recent Thruway press release was this juicy bit (emphasis added):

In a continuing effort to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Authority's winter maintenance program, the Albany and Syracuse Divisions will be using renewable sugar beet sourced liquid and salt brine mixture. The mixture will be used as an anti-icing agent in both a direct liquid application in advance of a storm, and in the pretreatment of rock salt. The new material compliments the Authority's widespread use of straight salt brine, which has proven effective and very economical as a pretreatment for rock salt.

The Thruway Authority apparently experimented with products made from sugar beets last winter in the Albany area. It reportedly worked well -- and didn't stain the roads. Midwestern states have been experimenting with beet-derived solutions for a few years now (and Maryland's using it this year, too). [AP/NCPR] [Oneida Dispatch] [USA Today]

There are even two competing beet products for road treatment: Geomelt and Ice Bite.

OK, so... why sugar beets? (That's one just out of the ground on the right.) The theory is that that that substance derive from the beets lowers the temperature at which the salt solution freezes. (A patent filed in 2000 for using a sugar beet byproduct -- "desugared sugar beet molasses" -- claims the substance remains "flowable" at below-zero temps.) That helps the solution stick to roads and continue working longer, which means less salt is required (good for saving money -- and good for the environment). [USPTO] [UPI] [Duluth News Tribune] [PNAS]


photo: Flickr user mindy.kotaska


Interesting that the Syracuse and Albany area are just beginning to use the beet juice/salt brine mixture. Here in Ohio we have been using this for awhile. Seems to really help having it down when the snow flies. You can tell when it has been applied to the road surface - it is sprayed on the road in vertical lines.

I haven't looked at the patent, but I can say that lowering the freezing point of the water (freezing point depression) is exactly why salt works on the roads. I would guess that since the sugar has a higher solubility that salt in water, you can dissolve a lot more of it and lower the freezing point more effectively.

And sugar won't rot your car's body, just your teeth. :)

They totally stole this idea from Dwight Schrute and his quest for world domination via Schrute Farms Beets.

Cue this video clip, which has been stuck in my head since approximately 1984.

This is so fabulously random. Love it.

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