Blacksburg team melts away snow worries with Melt Mat invention

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Removing snow is costly.

New York City shells out nearly 100 million dollars every winter to clear snow.

It's not that pricey around here, but it's definitely time consuming and sometimes frustrating to remove where ever it falls.

A team at Virginia Tech says they have a quick fix to make it melt faster by using help from the sun.

Professors and students at tech say every time there's a significant snow fall there's a big issue in parking lots. That snow is pushed into big mounds taking up parking spots.

"My senior project team and I developed what we call the Melt Mat which is a thermally absorptive coating, just meaning like a black spray paint that captures almost all the radiation coming from the sun," said Jonathan Boreyko, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech.

That mat, which eventually could resemble something like a yoga mat, is placed on the snow banks to make them disappear.

"Now the snow bank could melt about 300 percent faster or three times faster compared to a bare snow bank," Boreyko said.

He oversees a group of about six undergraduate students who helped develop the idea. Their research in the labs appear effective. A time-lapse video from Virginia Tech shows the melting speed in the lab with a hot bulb is much faster with the Melt Mat than only using the heat from the lamp.

Students researchers used shaved ice in their experiment, but larger companies could test this invention on real snow. The team has a provisional patent now.

"But we're hoping to get a contract with other companies that would be interested in licensing out this and developing the technology so that it could actually be sold to landscapers or whoever the customer is," said Kristen Swedberg, a recent graduate of VT who worked on the invention.