PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University researchers have been experimenting with using grape skins as an alternative for deicing roads.
Beet juice is commonly used as an additive to enhance the performance of deicers, but WSU Associate Professor Xianming Shi said it's not good for the environment.
This is because beet juice can deplete oxygen and endanger aquatic organisms when it enters bodies of water.
This inspired Shi to start using grape waste products. He and his team then found that a grape extract-based solution melts ice quicker than other deicers while causing less damage to concrete and asphalt.
"When they make grape juice, for instance, they use most of the grape, but what's left over is mostly the skin of the grape," Shi said. "Which is a waste they have to landfill."
The researchers turn the grape skins into "green chemicals," which Shi said are valuable additives for the deicers. Shi said it isn't realistic to eliminate all harm to the environment, but using grape skins in deicer is one way to have less negative impact.
The grapes Shi uses in his research are Washington-grown concord grapes. Shi's team have also had success by breaking down materials like apple skins, peony leaves and dandelion leaves. These materials showed similar results to grape skins.
"Some companies have thousands of tons of this type of waste that they're spending resources to get rid of," Shi said. "This could provide a different way to divert them from waste stream to engineering applications."
Shi said his long-term goal is to look at what sources are available locally to help deice roads in an environmentally friendly way.