Frustrated with snow piles, VT professor invents snow melting mat

VT Assistant Professor Jonathan Boreyko holds a small prototype of his Melt Mat. (Photo: Annie Andersen)

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WSET)-- Snow is pretty, but shoveling it can be a pain in the back- literally.

"After snow, it's generally the hardest and most annoying thing to clear up the snow," said Virginia Tech grad student Ranid Mukherjee.

And even after it's clear, it can still be a pain.

Just ask Virginia Tech assistant professor Jonathan Boreyko. He remembers it vividly. "The snow plows had piled up these giant snow piles that were blocking about a third of all the parking spots on campus, and I was late to class that day because I couldn't find a parking spot."

So from that, the Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics researcher invented the Melt Mat

Boreyko explained, "The first part is we have a black coating on top of our blanket and that absorbs almost all of the radiation coming in from the sun on a sunny day. And then we take that absorbed and we conduct it across the blanket because the blanket is made of aluminum."

Team at tech tested it in a refrigerator with a light on to see if it melted faster. A time lapse video shows the shaved ice with the Melt Mat melting three times as fast as the shaved ice without.

A snow melter with no chemicals, no shoveling and with customized sizes- sounds expensive. However, Boreyko says he thinks it will be fairly inexpensive. He explained, "This is very cheap. This is essentially aluminum foil that is painted black on one side."

So why is this not everywhere? Because at a college like Virginia Tech, students leave after 4 years. Bashfully, Boreyko said, "We have a provisional patent on this right now. We were looking into making a startup company, but all of the seniors on the project all graduated and are all doing their own thing now."

Boreyko is working on getting a full patent and licensing the technology.

However, that won't happen for this coming storm.

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