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Deicing Bridges Using Geothermal Energy: A Case Study in Fort Worth

Bridge deicing is critical to ensure roadway safety, mobility, and productivity. Chemical deicers are the most used and effective method, but with adverse environmental impacts. As a green alternative, hydronically heated bridges with geothermal energy are a promising technology, relying on embedded hydronic loops for heating, limiting their use to new bridges. To expand their use to existing bridges, a new external geothermal heating design has been explored in concept and physical tests in both laboratory and field. The recent research progress and highlights in the geothermal bridge deicing project funded by TxDOT are presented. A full-scale external geothermal deicing system was designed, constructed, and implemented on a mock-up bridge in Arlington, TX 2018. In this system, a 435-ft. vertical single U-tube ground heat exchanger was installed to provide the heat energy needed to deice the bridge. The performance of the mock-up geothermal bridge deck was investigated through winter deicing and summer recharging tests. In particular, the geothermal bridge was tested during the major February 2021 winter storm in Texas. The newly developed geothermal bridge deicing system has been shown to be effective for existing bridges.



Xinbao Yu Ph.D., PE
The University of Texas at Arlington


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