Hadi Ghasemi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston. Photo: University of Houston.
Hadi Ghasemi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston. Photo: University of Houston.

A mechanical engineer at the University of Houston has developed a sprayable ice-shedding material that is 100 times stronger than any others. The new durable coating material has been tested by Boeing under erosive rain conditions at 385 miles per hour and has outperformed current state-of-the-art aerospace coating technologies.

The working principle of the new ‘fracture-controlled material’ lies in the fact that for detachment of any external solid object from a surface (like ice from an airplane wing), force must be applied, and that force will inevitably lead to the formation of some cracks at the interface. These cracks, or fractures, grow until the object is fully detached from the surface. 

Through a new concept developed by Hadi Ghasemi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, detachment can now be accurately controlled and accelerated. Ghasemi and his team report this concept in a paper in Materials Horizons.

"We developed a new concept in which, through material design, you can significantly accelerate the crack formation and growth, and easily remove external objects from the surface,” says Ghasemi. “This concept is implemented to develop materials that are highly durable, and ice does not attach to these materials.

“Fracture-controlled surfaces provide a rich material platform to guide future innovation of materials with minimal adhesion while having very high durability.”

From 1990 to 2000, 12% of all weather-related air disasters were due to ice. In the power industry, ice in transmission systems can lead to the collapse of poles and towers, the rupture of conductors and the flashover of insulators. To combat the dangers of ice, a wide range of materials with ice-shedding characteristics have been developed, but many tend to have very low durability, limiting their effectiveness. 

“The primary challenge in developing ice-shedding materials is finding materials with both low ice adhesion and good durability,” said Ghasemi. His new material, which is made from a mixture of polymer gel and silica, offers both.

This new fundamental concept of fracture-controlled materials paves the way for innovations in materials for aerospace, wind energy and other industrial and commercial applications where ice is an issue. Ice build-up on wind turbines can lead to an 80% drop in power generation, which could be avoided through these new coating materials, according to the researchers.

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