University of Iowa engineers are studying a new product designed to help cities preserve huge piles of salt between winters. Professor Wilfrid Nixon, a U-of-I research engineer, says a thin layer of concrete can be applied to protect the salt from the elements and to protect the environment from salt runoff. You pile the salt into a dome shape, spray the concrete on, it hardens and forms a shell, then you cut a hole in the side of the shell and you have –presto– a solid tent to cover the salt. Nixon says the spray-on concrete is still in its experimental stage and isn’t for sale. Nixon says the goal is to both protect the de-icing salt from snow and rain while protecting the land and groundwater nearby from being polluted by runoff. He says the study is testing all aspects of the material, including whether it’ll be cheaper to use than building a permanent salt dome. The Iowa D-O-T used 100,000 tons of salt on the state’s roads during the winter of 2000/2001. Nixon says the concrete has many other possible applications in Iowa, including being used to cover huge piles of excess grain.