Surface textures as an alternative solution for icing

Icing on structures such as buildings, pylons and wind turbines affects many sectors during the winter months. Apart from the potential damage to the structures themselves, there is also the danger of ice falling on top of people. A relatively new route has been discovered in the battle against icing: modifying surface textures so that water droplets are unable to cling on.

The traditional processes used against icing, such as heating, or the application of chemical products and/or mechanical removal, are both expensive and impractical. This is certainly the case with aviation, where extra weight and power loss are critical. This is why scientists are seeking alternatives.

Ice phobia

One new technology involves developing surfaces that provide passive ‘icephobicity’. Scientists process the surface textures at micro and nano levels to become superhydrophobic.

These textures have a water contact angle of more than 150°. Droplets falling onto the surfaces do not stick and therefore quickly roll off.

What about condensation?

Droplets can also form through condensation. In this case ‘lubricant infused surfaces’ offer a solution. These surfaces are covered with an immobilized liquid making them extremely smooth. Therefore the condensation droplets simply slide off before they are able to freeze.

Mother Nature gives the best example

Superhydrophobic surfaces and lubricant infused surfaces offer a very promising alternative route towards the prevention of icing. Although further research is needed to improve resistance to abrasion (erosion caused by gritty particles found in water) and wear. Examples of superhydrophobic surfaces can already be found in nature that are both strong and tough. But they currently remain difficult to copy.

Sirris also wants to carry out more research into super hydrophobic surfaces over the coming years.

(Source: Nature)


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