Look at just about any paved runway and chances are good you’ll see a jigsaw puzzle pattern in the pavement. This kind of deterioration plagues a number of airports, especially where de-icing and anti-icing chemicals are used.
A professor at Clemson University in South Carolina has been given the green light by the FAA to help solve this problem. Civil engineering professor Prasad Rangaraju developed a test method that determines whether a concrete runway will hold up under the use of de-icers and anti-icers. The researcher, who says not all concrete is susceptible to cracking, has found some mixtures held up much better than others.
“These are basic chemistry issues,” Rangaraju said. “If a runway is going to be built, the aggregates in the concrete mixture need to be tested first to see how they react in the presence of these de-icer and anti-icer solutions. Certain aggregates hold up just fine. We can also adjust the concrete mixture by using certain supplementary cementing materials and/or chemical admixtures to mitigate the reaction and prevent the distress from occurring. This is important not only for new runways, but also for patching cracks and other areas of deterioration in existing airfields.”