UNO Professor Creates Conductive Concrete

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of

Erin O’Gara

Imagine not having to shovel a driveway after a snowfall. Chris Tuan, a professor of civil engineering at UNO’s Peter Kiewit Institute, no longer has to imagine after inventing conductive concrete that melts away snow and ice.

Tuan was born in Taipei, the capitol of Taiwan, and was interested in medical science growing up. He realized he didn’t want to pursue medical science after dissecting frogs in biology lab, Tuan said.

He said his passion for civil engineering comes from helping people.

After receiving a doctoral degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 1980s, Tuan said, he came to Omaha as an assistant professor at UNO.

Lim Nguyen, a professor at UNO teaching electrical computer engineering to graduates and undergraduates, said he met Tuan shortly after he arrived in Omaha.

He is a hard-working guy who is driven, Nguyen said.

Tuan said he left teaching and worked in the civil engineering industry for eight years because, at the time, there wasn’t enough equipment or space for research at UNO.

During this time, he said, he worked at a consulting firm for the U.S. Air Force in Panama City, Florida.

One of the issues he addressed was aircrafts landing and skidding in cold regions, Tuan said. Using salt or chemicals hurts the interior of planes, he said, so he had to come up with a better solution.

Tuan said while Bill Clinton was president, the military budget was cut and there wasn’t enough funding for his project. He returned to Omaha and started working in UNO’S new Peter Kiewit Institute.

Dr. Bing Chen, professor and chair of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Computer and Electronics Engineering Department at the Peter Kiewit Institute, said Tuan is imaginative and a creative thinker.

Chen said Tuan has a great passion for what he does, along with a great deal of vision.
Tuan said he pitched electrically conductive concrete to the Nebraska Department of Roads, the roads department liked the idea and decided to fund it.

“The idea is very simple, just like a coffee warmer, the whole pad is a heating element,” Tuan said.

He said the concrete is 20 percent steel fibers mixed with carbon fibers, the other 80 percent is regular concrete with steel cables embedded in the mixture. To make the concrete conductive, just connect the steel cables to a power source, Tuan said.

Nguyen said Tuan is good at what he does, and he was able to come up with a concrete mix that works well.

Tuan said a video of conductive concrete in action can be found on YouTube by searching: “time lapse of conductive concrete melting snow in Nebraska.”

Electrically conductive concrete is the concrete of the future, Tuan said.