Snow Plow Uses Hydraulics to Compress Snow Into 1/12 as much Ice

for Urban areas

During winter storms in Northern cities and towns, snowplows do a good job of pushing the snow off the traffic lanes. Unfortunately, that results in large piles of snow that remain for weeks to come. This article presents a modified snowplow that minimizes that problem.

An inch of rain precipitation is the equivalent of around 10" to 12" of snow, because of all the air pockets in the snowflakes. If snow is compressed, that air can be removed, and the result is effectively a bunch of ice cubes of only 1/12 the volume!

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A Streets and Sanitation truck could be mounted with a conventional rotary snow thrower (very much like a large version of a residential snow thrower). The outlet chute of that snowblower would feed the snow into the bed of the truck. That effect would resemble the way a bagger lawnmower sends the grass into a bag.

On the floor of the bed of the truck, several items would be installed. First of all, narrow slots would be cut in the floor near the very side edges of the floor. Next, a 3" high, very heavy bar rests on the floor of the truck bed. It is on edge, extending from the front edge of the bed to the rear edge of the bed. Now, picture a fairly simple mechanism that (a) keeps this bar vertically on edge; (b) keeps the bar continuously parallel to the centerline of the truck; and (c) moves the bar laterally from one side of the truck bed to the other. The motion of this bar would resemble a VERY heavy duty windshield wiper, continually sweeping back and forth across the floor of the truck bed.

Snow that would be dumped in by the snowthrower to the left of the moving bar would get pushed sideways to the left wall as the bar moved to the left. By selecting the motion range of the bar, any reasonable "compression ratio" should be possible. For example, if the truck bed is 8 feet wide, it might make sense for the moving bar to stop moving toward the side wall when it is 8 inches away from it. That would generally have the effect of a 12:1 compression of the snow.

The moving bar should probably be wider at the top than at the bottom, a tapered cross section. This would tend to press the snow slightly downward as it moved. This should keep much of the snow from slipping up over the moving bar. At the end of the motion, when the compressed ice cube is directly over the slot in the floor, that angled side of the moving bar would press the ice cube downward through the slot in the floor. This would clear the compressed cube away for the next cycle in that direction.

The operation would compress snow going the other direction on the rightward motion of the bar, so the compressing effect would be continuous.

The only remaining necessary feature would be below the floor of the truck bed. Either a chute would be needed to eject the ice cubes outward so the truck didn't run over the cubes, or some conveyor or other mechanism would be used to send the cubes into a second truck or into a container that would be emptied at intersection corners.

That is all the mechanism that would be necessary! The moving bar could be moved by a pair of hydraulic cylinders (at front and back of the truck bed) or by a motor driven gear train such as a rack and pinion.

An alternate arrangement might be to have 15 movable bars spaced equally across the bed area of the truck, and have these all rigidly attached together at their ends (at the front and back edge of the bed of the truck). Between them would be stationary bars firmly attached to the bed of the truck, also oriented on edge and front-to-back. Each movable bar would then have only a 6" wide space to move from side to side in. Instead of having a slow, long movement of a single bar, this latticework of 15 bars could be oscillated rather quickly, almost in a lateral vibrating situation. As before, as each bar moved to the left (6"), it would compress the snow on that side of the bar. A moment later, as it moved back right, it would compress the new snow that had arrived on that side of the bar.

This configuration would seem to have a variety of advantages over the method described above, but it has an apparent disadvantage of not having an obvious way of disposing with the rapid accumulation of a multitude of rather small pieces of ice.

I had thought of making hemisphere shaped indentations on both sides of both fixed and moving bars, so the compressed snow would form little "marbles" of ice, but it is still not clear on how to get them out in just a second or two. Some sort of a snow blower mechanism could launch the multitude of ice marbles to a chosen destination, but getting the pieces out from between the bars seems to be a problem. Instead of creating marble shapes, I had also considered creating cone shaped ice cubes, with their points upward, and having a LOT of holes in the bed of the truck! The theory is that they would fall down through the holes. Experimental evidence is needed to know what shape of such small ice cubes would be best.

The compressing could be done as the truck/plow is plowing the streets. Alternately, the snow could be left in piles at the corners of intersections as is currently done, for compressing-processing after the storm is over. In either case, it would eliminate the expense and inconvenience of hiring many trucks and payloaders to load and haul the snow away.

The community would also benefit by not having the inconvenience of piles of snow in parking spaces, or the problem of already having piles of existing snow when the next storm arrives.

The cost of this mechanism would be VERY reasonable. Its cost would amortize itself very quickly in reduced costs of equipment and labor that would have been paid for hauling the snow away.

I first invented this concept in 1975. It was first put on the InterNet in February 2000.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago