Three years ago, ITS News reported how a team from Massachussetts Institute of Technology had made a coating to prevent glass fogging and frosting. Now scientists at the University of Michigan have gone further – by using physics they have been able to change the way ice reacts and breaks free from any surface. They have created a rubbery coating which prevents ice from getting a solid grip. Any ice that forms then slips off with a slight vibration or slight wind. The new substance can not only prevent ice build up on windscreens, it could also be utilised on aeroplanes, ships, wind turbines as well as oil platforms and power lines. The clear, thin coating is rubbery to touch, it is made using a formula which blends well known synthetic rubbers. It can be spray applied to every type of substrate.
Lab tests have shown it stands up to salt spray corrosion and high temperatures and mechanical abrasion, through numerous freeze-thaw cycles.
By adjusting its smoothness and rubberiness, the coating can be made to incrementally affect its level of ice repellancy and durability.
Kevin Golovin, a doctoral student in materials science at the University of Michigan said: ‘an aeroplane coating, for example, would need to be extremely durable, but it could be less ice-repellant because of high winds and vibration that would help push ice off. A freezer coating, on the other hand, could be less durable, but would need to shed ice with just the force of gravity and slight vibrations. The great thing about our approach is that it’s easy to fine tune for any application.’ Food standard certification will be required but it is thought that the first commercial applications could be in frozen food packaging. Further rigorous safety and stringent durability tests followed by certification will be required prior to other useage on transport and infrastructure.