Tuesday, January 21, 2020

We got the beet! 7 facts about beet juice on highways

You don't have to work for the Kansas Department of Transportation to know we use beet juice to help battle ice on highways during the winter.

But could you pass a pop quiz on it? Do you know how to explain why KDOT crews use sugar beet juice to fight wintry road conditions? 

Think of it this way: The sugar in sugar beet juice offers sweet benefits for ice-fighting efforts on the highways, especially when pre-treating trouble areas like bridges, which tend to ice up faster than non-elevated pavement. There’s a chemistry at work, says Jim Frye, Field Maintenance Manager/Emergency Coordinator with KDOT.

Frye recently gave beet and brine application training to south central Kansas snow-and-ice crews in Larned and Wichita. 

Jim Frye talks with District Five employees during beet/brine application training on Jan. 14 in Wichita.

Here are seven points -- and a little science lesson -- from the teacher that could help you pass the quiz and explain it to others:

  • Beet juice added to brine (saltwater) is especially useful with temperatures from 15 down to 5 degrees. That’s because beet juice, as Frye says, “slows the process of water molecules forming into (ice) crystals. Come to find out, sugar helps the water molecules from freezing solid down in these lower temperatures. It keeps it slushy, which is what we want.”
  • Because beet juice is sticky, it holds ice-fighting brine to pavement longer.
  • Other advantages: By using a mix of beet and brine, it takes less brine, so it lowers the corrosive effect of the salt in brine – which helps cut down on road and bridge repair. It also reduces the amount of salt seeping into the environment.
  • Does beet juice look brownish and get on vehicles? Yes, but it will wash off with water.
  • KDOT uses beet juice to pretreat or treat highways at more than 20 locations around the state.
  • KDOT has used beet juice for about five years now.
  • The beet juice comes from an Iowa supplier. 

Remember that crews work hard to clear Kansas roads. Make sure you give them plenty of room to work, and check www.kandrive.org for updated road conditions. 

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