New technology to help salt Knoxville roads in snow

@ # State

The technology, developed by scientists at Oak Ridge and students at UT, uses lasers aboard planes to determine how much brine is needed to treat different sections of roads--and then dispenses exactly the right amount.

The next time winter weather is in the forecast, one of Knoxville's seven brine trucks will have some help from above.

Guidance from lasers aboard planes will help a new device on that truck determine the optimal amount of brine that should be dispensed.

A computer tablet in the truck will use data on stretches of road with higher risks for ice -- areas that are shady or steep -- combined with information about how fast the truck is traveling to release the proper amount of treatment.

When the truck travels slower, the device will adjust the amount of salt dispensed accordingly. The technique is designed to minimize waste and increase the available supply of de-icing agent.

"The software takes into account the speed of the truck,"
Tucker Youngblood, a UT student on the project, said.
"In the past when brine trucks go to an intersection and they’re waiting at a stop light, they’re just wasting brine. Our software reduces the amount of brine that’s being dispensed so it’s not so wasteful."

The technology was designed by Oak Ridge scientists and UT students.

Femi Omitaomu, a senior scientist at ORNL, said he hopes the technology means fewer snow days.

"The road will be properly treated and more people can get out. And maybe there will be less closures,"
he said.

After this winter season, the city will report back to ORNL on brine use comparing the prototype device and the typical brine trucks.