A Feasibility Study of Bridge Deck Deicing using Geothermal Energy

Ghasemi-Fare O., Bowers G. A., Kramer C. A., Özüdoğru T. Y., Basu P., Olgun C. G., ...More

Technical Report, pp.111, 2015

  • Publication Type: Other Publication / Technical Report
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Page Numbers: pp.111
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


In this study, the authors investigated the feasibility of a ground-coupled system that utilizes heat energy harvested from the ground for deicing of bridge decks. Heat exchange is performed using circulation loops integrated into the deep foundations supporting the bridge or embedded within the approach embankment. The warm fluid extracted from the ground is circulated through a tubing system embedded within reinforced concrete bridge deck to keep the deck temperature above the freezing point. A circulation pump that requires a minimal amount of power is used for fluid circulation. This is different from ground-source heat pump systems used for heating and cooling of buildings. In this study, a proof-of-concept testing is developed to investigate the operational principles and key design parameters. Experiments were performed on a model-scale instrumented bridge deck and model heat-exchanger piles to investigate heat transfer within different components of the ground-coupled bridge deck system. Heat transfer within ground and concrete bridge deck is quantified through numerical simulations under a variety of design and operational conditions. Experimental and numerical studies performed both at Penn State and Virginia Tech campuses demonstrate that this technology has a significant potential in reducing the use of salts and deicing chemicals. The knowledge and experience gained from this research will guide future research on real-life implementation of the proposed alternative bridge deck deicing method and will eventually help the concept to grow as a ready-to-use technology. Consequently, it will be possible to reduce bridge deck deterioration and offset the detrimental effects and environmental hazards caused by these chemicals.