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Monday, May 25, 2020

Academics & Research

UH research team develops new ice repellent technology

UH researchers have developed a silicon polymer material that allows for the easy removal of ice from treated surfaces. | Courtesy of UH Department of Mechanical Engineering

As a polar vortex cripples the United States, UH researchers have developed a new material that could help prevent the billions of dollars in damages caused by icy weather conditions every year.

In a publication released through Materials Horizonsa UH research team announced the creation of a durable coating that ice can’t adhere to. The material, a silicon polymer coating, was created using a theory the team has dubbed “stress-localization” in their paper.

“You put in the properties you want, and the principle will tell you what material you need to synthesize,” said Hadi Ghasemi, a Bill D. Cook assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an author of the report.

According to the research team, the theory can be used to bypass the long process of experimenting with new materials by modeling them beforehand.

Using the modeling system, the research team has been able to develop anti-fouling materials, meaning they prevent organic build-up on wet surfaces, Ghasemi said.

Ghasemi worked on the project along with a team of researchers from the UH Department of Mechanical Engineering and Daniel Araya, a former UH faculty member and member of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

While the theory proposed in their research could be used to develop other materials, the primary focus of the project is the development of an ice-repellent coating.

Ghasemi said he’s developed materials like it in the past but hadn’t overcome the problem of ice’s strong adherence until the research team developed their theory. The current iteration of the modeling system and material took around a year to develop, Ghasemi said.

The material is durable, able to withstand abrasions from sandpaper and a file and is able to remove ice by cooling it and allowing water to freeze on the surface, which allows for easy removal, as shown by Ghasemi here.

This material could effectively protect aircraft from frost by allowing the flow of air to remove ice buildup on the material, according to the research team. The coating is also strong enough to stand up to ultraviolet rays, which is important for aircraft that face exposure from the sun.

“There is a wide range of applications for these anti-icing surfaces including aircrafts, infrastructures, power transmission systems, ships and vessels traveling in the arctic, automotive industry and households,” Ghasemi said.

The coating could reportedly last up to 10 years without reapplication, according to Ghasemi.

“Freezing rain and ice are becoming more frequent in the northeast,” said Robert Talbot, professor of atmospheric chemistry at UH and Director of the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science. “This is due to warming where instead of snow precipitation, freezing rain falls.”

Ice created by freezing rain can cause significant damage to power lines by weighing them down and can create slippery surfaces on the road.

“This is very treacherous for driving and walking, so a material to make it safer would be welcome,” Talbot said.

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