Having to scrape ice off your windshield in freezing temperatures before heading off to work is awful. When ice builds up on airplanes and other equipment, it can go from being a nuisance to causing serious danger. To combat icy buildup, researchers at the University of Michigan developed a spray-on ice repellent coating that can be applied to equipment, aircraft and car windshields to make removing the frozen stuff a breeze. In fact, the team of engineers say all it takes to clear off a treated surface is the force of gravity or a light breeze thanks "iceophobic" material.
"Researchers had been trying for years to dial down ice adhesion strength with chemistry, making more and more water-repellent surfaces," said doctoral student Kevin Golovin. "We've discovered a new knob to turn, using physics to change the mechanics of how ice breaks free from a surface."
The team says the rubber-based coating could also lead to more efficient household and industrial freezers. The substance will not only help a freezer stay frost-free, but can make them 20 percent more energy efficient as well. In fact, the research effort has already developed hundreds of ice-repelling formulas for a variety of uses. So, what's expected to be the first application for the material? Frozen food packaging.
"I think the first commercial application will be in linings for commercial frozen food packaging, where sticking is often a problem. We'll probably see that within the next year," associate professor Anish Tuteja said. "Using this technology in places like cars and airplanes will be very complex because of the stringent durability and safety requirements, but we're working on it."