Innovative technology from the Urban Dynamics Institute (UDI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is gaining attention for its potential to help cities intelligently manage winter road treatments during seasonal snow and ice.
A research team led by the UDI’s Olufemi “Femi” Omitaomu was recognized recently for its work on a new resource to provide an “Intelligent Spatial Modeling Approach for De-icing Urban Roads.” The precision de-icing tool is a combined software and hardware package that optimizes seasonal road salting, enabling cities to allocate resources effectively and increase safety on critical roads.
The project is supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program at ORNL, a US Department of Energy funding initiative for cutting-edge, priority research that stimulates scientific innovation and discovery. An annual ORNL-wide poster session showcases funded proposals and gives researchers an opportunity to share their projects with the ORNL community.
Featured at the October 3–5 poster session, the UDI’s precision de-icing presentation earned the poster award for Best Seed Fund. Of the 64 posters on display, one was selected as “best in class” in each of the four categories: Director’s R&D Fund, Seed Fund, Distinguished Fellowship, and Most Potential for Future Funding.
ORNL’s Seed Fund distinguishes “seed” proposals as smaller than LDRD-funded proposals in scope, budget, and duration. Successful seed projects establish a “proof of principle” for developing scientific and technical capabilities and demonstrate high potential for future external funding.
The team’s precision approach to de-icing uses high-resolution modeling to quantify vulnerable roadways so that cities can identify which roads need to be treated and how much de-icer is necessary. The method is shown to significantly increase the number of roads treated on a city’s designated budget. A novel feature of the technology is a variable control mechanism developed for the spreader on salt trucks so that more or less de-icer can be applied to roads to minimize waste and expand coverage.
The motivation for the project, Omitaomu explained, reflects the UDI’s focus on helping cities become more resilient and aims to reduce costs for expensive winter road treatments. “Across the US, cities collectively spend about $1.5 billion on winter road maintenance, and given the expense, many lack the resources to provide complete coverage,” Omitaomu said. “Our goal is to give cities a way to get the best return on their investments with an intelligent approach to managing their resources effectively.”
Collaborators from ORNL and the University of Tennessee (UT) include Olufemi Omitaomu, Budhendra L. Bhaduri, Christi Johnson, Dan Koch, Sujithkumar Surendran Nair, Linda Sylvester, Jim Ostrowski, and graduate students Tony Rodriquez (UT), Frederick Kyle Reed (Tennessee Technical University), and Ryan Daniels (UT).
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Laboratory Directed Research and Development program cultivates priority advancements in science and technology at the nation’s research laboratories to support future DOE missions. ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the DOE Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov/.—By Ashley Huff