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Hold the salt: New sensor detects excess salt on roads


January 29, 2014

The optical sensor system developed to detect the amount of salt on a road (Photo: UC3M)

The optical sensor system developed to detect the amount of salt on a road (Photo: UC3M)

Just as a good meal can be ruined by too much table salt, too much sodium chloride applied to road surfaces to prevent icing can have a detrimental effect on vehicles, infrastructure and the environment. Engineers at Spain's Carlos III University (UC3M) have developed an optical sensor intended to prevent excessive salt treatment by detecting the amount of salt already on the road in real time.

Being based on weather forecasts, salting of roads is often carried out whether the road already has enough salt from previous applications or not. Marta Ruiz-Llata, a lecturer in the Department of Electronic Technology at UC3M points out that applying excess salt is not only wasteful, but has a corrosive effect on vehicles and infrastructure, damages vegetation and contaminates aquifers.

To prevent such excess salting, UC3M engineers developed an optical sensor that is able to detect concentrations of salt lower than 20 g/m2 – the quantity it is recommended not to exceed – by measuring salt's luminescence in response to exposure to UV light.

The engineers say the compact size and short response time of the sensor makes it suitable for mounting on road maintenance vehicles, which is something that is likely to occur in the not too distant future as the system's development was backed by ALVAC, S.A., a civil engineering company that has been in the road maintenance business for over 20 years.

The team is currently working on a system designed to monitor a number of road parameters and plans to integrate the salt sensor into that.

The optical sensor is detailed in a paper published in the journal Sensors and Actuators.

Source: Carlos III University

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Needed heavily for NE & Midwest with this polar vortex

Stephen Russell

We need that here (Ankara, Turkey) as after the last cold spell I was tempted to carry a sack and shovel with me to collect the salt piled up in the verges and sell it back to the council! :-)

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