The research team at Drexel University found that by adding paraffin wax to concrete roads, the concrete melts snow all on its own.
The United States uses roughly 17-20 million tons of road salt each year and the combination of salting and plowing roads causes deterioration of roads and introduces massive amounts of salt into urban environments.
That was the motivation for the research team, to develop a method to melt road ice more efficiently and environmentally safe. They found the secret lies in phase change materials, which store and release heat during winter conditions.
The team used widely accessible and inexpensive paraffin oil as the material of choice. They then developed a lab test with three scenarios. In one climate-controlled box, the concrete had paraffin filled pipes, in the second scenario concrete was mixed in with paraffin, and the third scenario had only concrete. The concrete slabs were covered with 5 inches of artificial snow and ambient temperatures held just above freezing.