Those of us caught up in last weekend’s ginormous East Coast blizzard got a reminder of that perennial lesson that comes each winter: Icy roads are no joke.

How’s this for a solution? For several years, scientists have been noodling around with roads that can de-ice themselves by way of a low-voltage electric charge that runs through the pavement.

Smartphone Vs Snow: Crowdsource Your Drive

One such technology is being developed by Chris Tuan, professor of civil engineering at the University of Nebraska. By mixing in relatively small amounts of steel shavings and carbon, Tuan and his team have managed to make concrete just conductive enough to carry an electrical charge. The augmented concrete melts can warm itself up enough to melt accumulated snow and ice, but remains safe to touch.

The concept itself is not new — civil engineers have been working with potential conductive concrete applications for decades. But the Nebraska team’s design is starting to get some major traction, so to speak. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently testing the material in a pilot program that wraps up in March. If all goes well, the agency will scale up the program by integrating conductive concrete into the tarmac of U.S. airports.

Here’s a time-lapse video of the conductive concrete in action:

Another selling point for the Nebraska design is its relatively low cost. Since 2002, the Nebraska Department of Roads has maintained a pilot project bridge that uses 52 conductive cement slabs, powered by the municipal electrical grid. The power required to thermally de-ice the bridge during a three-day storm is about $250, much less than salt and chemical solutions, researchers say.

10 Techs Taking On Old Man Winter

Speaking of salt, engineers are thinking about other methods for creating self-sufficient winter roads. A recent study published in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research details a system in which roads could essentially salt themselves.

Researchers in Istanbul, Turkey, have developed a technique for mixing polymer salt pockets into bitumen, a binding agent used in standard asphalt road surfaces. As vehicles drive over the road, the salt is released in measured amounts. Because the salt composite is evenly embedded in the road surface, the asphalt could potentially de-ice itself for years at a time.

It’s all good news for winter travelers. Bad news, I suppose, for Mr. Plow.