Bio-friendly ice-resistant coatings look to take off

Engineers in the US have developed a family of ice-resistant coatings that could be of particular benefit to the aerospace industry.

In winter, airplanes are doused with large amounts of de-icing fluid before taking to the skies. However, most of these glycol-based fluids are washed away during takeoff and end up in rivers and streams. The researchers, from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), have developed more than 80 different ice-resistant coatings in the form of creams, gels and emulsions designed to withstand the shear forces of take-off and are also bio-friendly when used. wash in waterways.

“We questioned the longevity of the cryoprotectants and looked at new ways to increase their effectiveness,” said Sushant Anand, UIC assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Sushant Anand, UIC assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Rukmava Chatterjee, a UIC PhD student. (Photo: Jim Young/UIC Engineering)

“Glycols dissolve very quickly in the water and are washed away before the plane takes off, and it is a serious problem costing hundreds of millions of dollars – most of which literally end up down the drain. We thought, why not improve such chemicals ourselves and make alternatives that last longer and are more bio-friendly at the same time. And that’s what we ended up doing.”

Described in Advanced materials the ‘icephobic’ coatings are formulations based on phase change material that create a lubricating surface layer that is both smooth and non-freezing. According to the researchers, the coatings can be easily applied to metals, glass and plastic without any pre-treatment or surface treatment. The gels in the family are also transparent, essential for applications such as cockpit and car windows, track lighting or windows.

More about materials

“Our coatings are an all-in-one package that can delay frost build-up for hours while ensuring surface ice is easily removed by a gentle breeze or simply tilting the substrate,” says Rukmava Chatterjee, a UIC PhD. student who collaborated with Anand on the study.

In addition to the obvious applications in transportation and buildings, the UIC engineers believe their ice-resistant coatings could one day be used to prevent crops from being lost to severe frost, although much more research would be needed to ensure the safety of that process. to establish.

“These materials have great potential for many applications, and I think the day when commercial versions of our materials come out is getting closer,” Anand said.

“Because our anti-icing sprays are bio-friendly and antibacterial, we even think they can be used in agriculture to prevent crops from being ruined by severe frost. But that’s a dream come true and we need to do more research to see if there are any long-term adverse effects on the plants.”

A worldwide patent application titled Compositions and Methods for Inhibiting Surface Ice Formation was submitted by UIC’s Office of Technology Management.

Abhishek Maheswari
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