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Next-generation Anti-icing Materials
Next-generation Anti-icing Materials
Research describes unique properties of materials known as phase-switching liquids, or PSLs, that hold promise as next-generation anti-icing materials
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Ice and frost pose hazards to people and can damage machines and reduce the functionality of some technologies, especially those related to energy and transportation. So, scientists have been interested in finding possible ways to overcoming their harmful effects. Most techniques to prevent frost and ice formation on surfaces rely heavily on heating or liquid chemicals that need to be repeatedly reapplied because they easily wash away. And, even advanced anti-icing materials have problems functioning under conditions of high humidity and subzero conditions, when frost and ice formation go into overdrive.

But new research published in the journal Advanced Materials describes for the first time several unique properties of materials known as phase-switching liquids, or PSLs, that hold promise as next-generation anti-icing materials. The researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago say that PSLs can delay ice and frost formation up to 300 times longer than state-of-the-art coatings being developed in laboratories.

PSLs are a subset of phase change materials that have melting points higher than the freezing point of water, which is 0 degrees Celsius, meaning that they would be solids at a range of temperatures close to that at which water freezes. Examples of such materials include cyclohexane, cyclooctane, dimethyl sulfoxide, glycerol, and more. At sub-zero temperatures, all PSLs turn solid. So, on a winter day, you could coat a surface where you don’t want icing with a PSL material and it would remain there much longer than most deicing liquids, which demand frequent reapplication.

While researchers have known about phase change materials for a long time, their unique anti-icing and anti-frosting properties have not been investigated before. Decades ago researchers had observed that when materials like cyclohexane were cooled just below their melting points, water droplets condensing on the surface would move around erratically.

The researchers cooled a range of PSLs to -15 degrees Celsius, rendering them all solid. Under high humidity conditions, they noticed that the solidified PSLs melted directly underneath and in the immediate vicinity of water droplets condensing on the PSLs.

They tested them as very thin coatings, like a film, and still saw the same freezing delay effect. That suggests that PSLs can be used to coat objects like car windshields or turbine blades without compromising the object’s functionality.

The unique properties of PSLs, described for the first time in Advanced Materials, make them excellent candidates for next-generation materials to prevent frost and ice development on surfaces.

At this point, the researchers still need to conduct additional experiments to determine their limits and figure out if there are ways, we can further maximize their ice and frost-repelling abilities.”

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