Heat-exchanger piles for the de-icing of bridges
Of the various types of road structures, bridges are the most exposed to icing; the problem of icing is widely addressed through salting, which reduces the lifespan of the bridge. One promising solution to avoid the use of salt is the seasonal storage of solar heat energy captured directly through the asphalt layer; however, this solution can only be achieved cost effectively if a necessary geostructure is used as a heat exchanger. In this study, such an approach is studied for a bridge crossing a canal, and the geotechnical and energy-related challenges of such a solution are discussed. Bridge piers and abutments are located on piles, which are used as heat exchangers. Depending on local conditions, seasonal storage and natural thermal reload are two possible solutions for the operation of such a system. In particular, the presence of underground water flow is thought to be a significant factor in such a design and is considered here. This study aims to determine the geotechnical and energy design parameters through thermo-hydro-mechanical simulations. A three-dimensional FEM analysis is necessary given the distance between bridge piles. Various underground water flow scenarios are studied. The capture of energy and de-icing requirements are based on the few existing structures that use other means of energy exchange with the ground. The results indicate that the use of heat-exchanger piles for de-icing bridges can only be considered at specific sites; however, the efficiency of the solution at those sites is high. Possible foundation and structure stability problems are also considered, such as vertical displacements due to the dual use of the foundation piles.