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New Study Likely To Lower Skidding

Skidding on frosty roads could be a thing of the past because of new research now underway.

The unique frost rooms at the New Zealand Controlled Environment Laboratory in Palmerston North are being used to research how frost forms on roads and makes them unsafe.

"Eventually, we hope to be able to improve skid resistance by recommending different road surfaces be used in areas where frosts are prone to form," said HortResearch scientist Dennis Greer who is conducting the research in conjunction with Opus Central Laboratories. The study is funded by Transfund New Zealand.

This is unusual research for HortResearch but the laboratory is the only one of its kind in New Zealand with rooms in which climate, humidity and temperature can be precisely controlled and measured.

Opus Central Laboratories scientist Vince Dravitzki said the controlled environment was ideal because of the number of difficulties associated with studying frost and skid resistance on the road. "Normally there are logistical problems of getting researchers to the areas where frosting is likely to occur and often nature can conspire against you to not form a frost when you need it.

"Another difficulty is that testing in the field needs to happen in the early hours of the morning which is very hazardous with traffic on the road."

Dr Greer said the first part of the research was completed by Christmas. It involved developing a protocol for further study by learning how to develop different types of frost on asphalt, mid-chip and large-chip road surfaces.

He said the next step is to research frost development on different sections of the road (wheel track, side, centre) as well as extending the range of surfaces studied. "We will then know under what different frost conditions road surfaces will loose resistance and become unsafe."

Dr Greer said the uniqueness of this study showed the versatility of the National Controlled Environment Laboratory. "It proves we are not only capable of undergoing frost work with plants but can use our facilities for something entirely different."

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