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'Nanotextured' surfaces delay ice formation

07 March 2012

Scientists at GE Global Research have announced a breakthrough in a project to develop new anti-icing applications from coatings created in the lab using nanotechnology. GE material scientists have focused on creating superhydrophobic, or extremely water repellent, materials as coatings for surfaces that could prevent icing.

The new research presented on Tuesday (March 6) shows that in addition to dramatically reducing ice adhesion on surfaces, the experimental 'nanotextured' coatings also delay ice formation under simulated atmospheric icing conditions in the lab. While a non-coated surface will experience ice formation almost immediately under those conditions, the GE researchers found that it was delayed by approximately 80 seconds on a surface with the nanotextured coating.
That delay could mean big efficiency gains and cost savings for operators of machines susceptible to ice build-up, such as jet engines and wind turbines. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 25 million gallons of de-icing agents are used on aircraft departing from commercial airports in the US every year. That’s in addition to the energy-intensive heating systems used on aircraft to prevent ice formation.

GE’s scientists are also exploring applications of both low ice adhesion and anti-icing surfaces for the blades of wind turbines, battered as they often are by frozen wind, which can cause ice build-up and drag on their rotation.

GE researchers are also developing superhydrophobic coatings to aid in moisture control in steam turbines, which can boost efficiency. Applied to other parts of a gas turbine, the nanocoatings can reduce 'fouling', enabling the turbine to run more efficiently.
A video clip of water drops bouncing off superhydrophobic surfaces, captured using a high-speed camera at GE Global Research, is available here.

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