Recycling champ

In winter conditions, when aircraft need to be freed of snow and ice before take-off, it's time to take out the "polar bears": special vehicles that spray de-icing fluids onto the appropriate surfaces at the head of the runway.

The remainder of the used material is collected along with the melted snow and ice and regenerated in an elaborate process. The recycling facility on the airport campus went into operation back in 1992 and is stil considered the largest of its kind.

Despite the advanced technology, the regeneration of the fluid takes place in a rapid cycle: The fluids sprayed by the polar bears on Monday is reused on Thursday.

Polar bears in action

How de-icing fluids are regenerated

(1) Polar bears in action
When wintry conditions arrive, the "polar bears" head for the runways: They spray the aircraft with specially dyed de-icing fluids prior to take-off.

(2) Drop by drop
The fluid that drips from the de-icing pads onto the ground, is captured. Mixed with ice and snow, it finds its way through It finds its way via specially cut grooves and channels to a measurement station.

(3) Measurement station
When the concentration of the collected mixture reaches the right level, it can be released for recycling.

(4) Transport
Pumping systems and tank trucks transport the mixture to the regeneration facility on the airport campus.

(5) Mechanical purification
First the mixture is mechanically purified. Ceramic filter rods can filter out the finest particles down to the molecular level.

(6) Chemical purification
Additional impurities are removed in several stages by means of ion exchange.

(7) Destillation
The excess water is removed from the substance by means of distillation, leaving behind the raw material glycol.

(8) Additives
To turn the regenerated fluid into usable de-icing agent, certain additives are needed such as orange dye.

(9) The circuit is complete
After extensive laboratory analysis, the fluid is approved for reuse. The "polar bears" can start again.

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