"We think there is significant commercial potential here."Arun Kota, Colorado State University.

Researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) have invented an ice-repellent coating that out-performs today's best de-icing products. Led by Arun Kota, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, they have created an environmentally friendly, inexpensive, long-lasting coating that could keep everything from cars and ships to planes and power lines ice-free.

Their innovation, described in a paper in the Journal of Materials Chemistry, is a gel-based, soft coating made out of PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane), a silicone polymer gel that already has a wide range of industrial uses. Their experiments were supported by careful analysis of ice adhesion mechanics.

The performance measure of de-icing coatings is called ice adhesion strength – the shear stress necessary to remove ice from a surface – and is measured in kilopascals (kPa). Kota's group demonstrated an ice adhesion strength for their coating of about 5kPa. By contrast, soft coatings currently available on the market have an ice adhesion strength of about 40kPa (lower is better). Other types of de-icing coatings made of rigid materials like Teflon typically perform at around 100kPa.

At the moment, the spraying of salts or liquid de-icers such as ethylene glycol or propylene glycol is the most common passive de-icing technique; according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, more than 20 million gallons of de-icing chemicals are used per year by the aviation industry alone. Unlike coatings, these liquid products can leach into groundwater, raising environmental concerns, and have to be applied over and over again.

Kota notes that de-icing coatings are not the same as anti-icing coatings. Anti-icers delay the formation of ice; de-icers facilitate easy removal of ice, once that ice has already formed and stuck to a surface.

The CSU breakthrough is an environmentally-friendly, high-performance solution that could replace toxic liquid de-icers and keep ice from sticking to our windshields. "We think there is significant commercial potential here," Kota said.

This story is adapted from material from Colorado State University, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.