Yes, you read that right! Ice-proofing has been a lifelong dream of scientists and researchers who have aimed to ice-proof large structures such as airplanes and cargo ships.
Now, with an all-new and breakthrough spray-on coating, this dream might turn into a reality after all!
The breakthrough and the research
A team of researchers at the University of Michigan have devised a new cutting-edge spray-on coating system to ice-proof large structures easily.
This coating helps shed ice off of big surfaces so that when coated on objects with a large surface area, the ice will simply fall away with little to no force regardless of its immense size.
The lead researcher named Anish Tuteja and his team have carried out entire research on the subject that has even been published in Science.
He shares, “For decades, coating research has focused on lowering adhesion strength—the force per unit area required to tear a sheet of ice from a surface. The problem with this strategy is that the larger the sheet of ice, the more force is required. We found that we were bumping up against the limits of low adhesion strength, and our coatings became ineffective once the surface area got large enough.”
Therefore, as is expected, Tuteja and his team faced several roadblocks during their research. The most significant hurdle came in the form of the initial ice-repellant coatings that did work on small surface areas but did not really serve their purpose when it came to larger surfaces.
Those coatings did not effectively assist in shedding ice off of large surfaces. Another substantial obstacle was the sapping efficiency of the initial research that called for costly removals and safety issues.
All these hurdles were carefully eliminated through a “beautiful demonstration of mechanics” in the form of a video.
Several coating tests by the team
Tuteja and his team implemented an already used technique that they have gained expertise over after the initial research.
They employed interfacial toughness and adhesion strength to test the functionality of the spray-on coating and see if it actually works.
They also tested the coating on a wide range of surfaces as per their length and width. The results showcased the ice shedding off almost immediately on every single surface because of its own weight.
That said, when it came to controlled surfaces of similar sizes, they stuck to them.
In any case, these experiments went a long way to solidifying their belief in the research and providing solid evidence that the spray-on ice coating can actually work for immensely large surfaces after all.
This new coating can be a step in the right direction to give vital answers to many unresolved questions in the present times.
In addition to that, it brings the researchers one step closer to the ultimate dream of ice-proofing.
As a next step, the team of researchers has decided to enhance the durability of the Low Interfacial Toughness or LIT coatings.