According to a recent article from the Associated Press, a shortage of road salt combined with rising prices has many communities looking for new ways to extend their salt supplies or to find alternative methods to de-ice roads: "...communities are making plans to stretch supplies by mixing salt with sand, brine or even beet juice."1 Information in the CAS databases can provide insights into the latest methods in road de-icing.
Traditionally, chloride salt pellets have been used to de-ice roads due to their ability to lower the freezing temperature of water or, in the cases of calcium chloride and magnesium chloride, by creating heat via an exothermic reaction.2
Chloride salt pellets are often pre-wetted with a salt solution, or brine, to prevent the pellets from scattering off the roadway during spreading and to enhance their melting properties.2 Sand, as you may have guessed, works by providing traction - but what about "beet juice"?
The author of the AP story is likely referring to several new de-icing products that contain de-sugared sugar beet molasses, a waste product created when sugar beets are used to make commercial grade sugar. The first U.S. patent to describe the use of de-sugared sugar beet molasses as a de-icing agent was issued in 2000:
It's not clear how de-sugared sugar beet molasses works - even whether it can melt ice as effectively as chloride salts. However, the inventor claims that compared to other de-icing agents, de-sugared sugar beet molasses is more readily available at low cost, effective at temperatures below freezing, suitable for use in conventional sprayers, non-corrosive, environmentally safe, and non-offensively smelling.
A recent U.S. patent application provides additional support for the use of de-sugared sugar beet molasses as an alternative or a supplement to chloride salts for de-icing. The patent describes a process that effectively enhances the melt value of de-sugared sugar beet molasses:
You can use SciFinder or STN to search the CAS databases for additional information about chloride salts and de-sugared sugar beet molasses. If your organization is enabled to use the web version of SciFinder, you can directly access details for the substances and references listed in this article.
Peter S. Carlton, Ph.D.
- Suhr, J. Road Salt Shortage, Soaring Prices Vex States. Associated Press Archive, Dec 2, 2008.
- Salt Institute. http://www.saltinstitute.org (accessed Jan 6, 2009).
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