While many scientific fields are arguably more important than others, even those are vital to the sustainability and progress of industry. It’s true that medicine can be viewed as more important than transportation, and robotics could be seen as more important than space travel from certain perspectives, but they are equally vital to the development of our society.
Marking potential reforms in multiple industries over the next few years, a breakthrough was made in ice-proofing surfaces. This breakthrough will have cross-field ramifications, with transportation, the food industry, and even packaging soon to profit from the new discovery.
The new icephobic material is going to greatly improve and simply the process of removing ice from a wide array of surfaces ranging from airplane windows and wings, to power lines, wind turbines, and even food packaging. It’s because of this wide range of uses, that scientists were so focused on finding the right compound.
While it was previously known that ice had a harder time attaching to rubbery materials, nobody had ever considered actually using a rubbery compound to stop important surfaces from freezing over. Instead, previous efforts focused on developing chemically hydrophobic materials that would repeal the water itself instead of stopping it from freezing.
According to Kevin Golovin, Michigan graduate and participant in the study,
Researchers had been trying for years to dial down ice adhesion strength with chemistry, making more and more water-repellent surfaces. We’ve discovered a new knob to turn, using physics to change the mechanics of how ice breaks free from a surface.
According to the press release, when two rigid materials such as glass and ice stick together, they have a very hard time getting separated. But if there was a rubbery surface between them, the force needed to break the two apart greatly reduces. So, the team went through over one hundred elastomers until finally settling on the most appropriate solution.
Performing tests during Michigan winters in the Ann Arbor area, the team managed to develop a compound that was so efficient that it only took a light breeze to remove an ice coating from a car window. And after months left in the cold, no changes were seen at the level of the compound, showing huge potential for stability.
Even better, now that they have the necessary compound, the researchers can actually adapt for different surfaces, durations, and consistencies. It will take a few years before the substance becomes commercially available, but by then the team will be working on it, making it usable on an increasing number of surfaces.
Image source: Pixabay