A research team at the University of Michigan said it had designed a series of ice-phobic rubber coatings that could keep ice off rigid surfaces with minimal effort. Plus, the ice-repellent will come cheap because all its ingredients are already commercially available.
Nicole Zacharia, a polymer expert at the University of Akron who was not involved in the project, noted that the new ice-proofer is extremely practical because it can be produced from easy to find and relatively cheap compounds.
Other attempts to find the perfect ice-repellent used expensive technologies, while current ice-proofing methods involve chemicals that are hazardous to the environment. But the recently developed rubber coatings tap physics to remove ice from surfaces.
A research paper on the discovery was published Mar. 11 in the journal Science Advances.
The research team focused on two issues that make ice stick onto surfaces: the bond between ice and the surfaces and the surfaces’ slipperiness. Researchers’ tweaked the coatings’ texture and density to make them more slippery by weakening the physical bond between ice and the surface.
They also added oils to the ice-proofers to make them more slippery and preventing them from wearing off.
Researchers explained that the ice-repellent coatings look rigid, but on a microscopic level they are highly flexible, thus preventing ice from sticking to them.
Anish Tuteja, the leader of the research team, explained that flexibility deters ice stickiness. Plus, adding oils made the coatings even more repellent.
Scientists said that they have already tested their ice-proofers on various surfaces including metal and glass. Plus, the materials were also tested in a multitude of scenarios, such as being exposed to Michigan’s harsh winter conditions and toxic chemicals.
Regardless of the conditions, ice kept sliding away even after several months, making the rubber coatings some of the most durable ice-repellents ever developed. Researchers are already in the talks with a company to use the coatings on food cans to prevent them from sticking together when they freeze.
The team currently plans to test how versatile the new material is. If it can be adjusted to various uses and surfaces, it could be applied on sidewalks, airplanes, spacecrafts, wind turbines, power grids and more.
All in all, the ice-repellent is different from anything invented so far. According to the team, it weakens the bond between the ice and the surface so much that ice can be removed by a simple breeze.
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