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Researchers have reported the discovery of a smart material that can be applied to any surface to repel ice and which “outperforms all others currently in use”.
“Anti-icing surfaces have a critical footprint on daily lives of humans ranging from transportation systems and infrastructure to energy systems, but creation of these surfaces for low temperatures remains elusive,” the researchers wrote.
“Non-wetting surfaces and liquid-infused surfaces have inspired routes for the development of icephobic surfaces. However, high freezing temperature, high ice adhesion strength, and high cost have restricted their practical applications,” the study said.
The new material, known as a magnetic slippery surface (MAGSS), was described in the journal Nature Communications. Among the advantages of the new material is that it has a far lower freezing threshold than the best icephobic technology currently available, said principal investigator for the research Hadi Ghasemi, Assistant Professor at University of Houston in the US. “These new surfaces provide the path to tackle the challenge of icing in systems, thereby improving the quality of human life,” he said.
Potential applications range from the aircraft industry — planes can encounter freezing rain or super-cooled water droplets while flying, leading to a buildup of ice and, potentially, a crash — to the power industry, where icing can cause power poles, towers and transmission lines to collapse.
These surfaces promise a new paradigm for development of icephobic surfaces in aviation technologies, ocean-going vessels, power transmission lines and wind turbines in extreme environments, the researchers wrote.
While one side of the surface is coated with a magnetic material, a thin layer of magnetic fluid — a mixture of fluid and iron oxide nanoparticles — is deposited on the other side, Ghasemi said.
The magnetic fluid faces outside. When a droplet of water hits the surface, the magnetic fluid acts as a barrier, stopping the droplet from reaching the solid surface.
“There’s no adhesion of the ice to the solid surface, so it basically slides off the surface,” he said. Ultimately, Ghasemi said he hopes to develop the coating as a spray that can be applied to any surface.