Research scientists at Battelle are developing a new anti-icing coating technology that deploys carbon nanotubes, offering lighter-weight aircraft protection that draws less power than traditional systems.
The coating can be sprayed onto a variety of curved surfaces.
What’s new, the team says, is how the carbon nanotubes are dispersed into a coating that goes on with the plane’s standard paint, which then can be heated using available on-board power.
CNT in Coatings
Super strong, electrically conductive, wear resistant and offering electrostatic discharge protection, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have long held major potential for structural materials. But they are just now being integrated into coating materials.
|The coating has been tested in anti-icing tunnels that replicate FAA-defined known icing conditions.|
Earlier this year, Ohio-based Tesla NanoCoatings Ltd. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled the first commercially available corrosion-resistant coating for steel made with fullerene carbon nanotubes (CNTs).
That coating was recently honored as an R&D Top 100 innovative technology.
Battelle researchers say their product is radically different from other ice prevention systems, such as bleed air (heating the surface with hot engine air), mechanical boot (physically breaking the bond between surface and ice), or weeping wing (releasing toxic antifreeze fluid from the wing).
“These more traditional solutions can be too complex, too heavy or draw too much power to be effective, especially on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have both limited payload capacities and power supplies,” said a release by the independent Columbus, OH-based organization, which performs contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization worldwide.
Battelle says it recently completed “promising” icing tunnel testing to validate the technology’s compatibility with existing coating systems. More testing is planned for next year, with a product available in two to three years, researchers say.
“In the past two to three years, Battelle scientists have conducted many experiments to advance this technology,” said John Ontiveros, the program’s Operations Manager.
The program started in January 2010, when Battelle scientists completed an internally funded coating project. There, they conducted initial functional feasibility tests of the coating in an icing tunnel designed to replicate FAA-defined “Known Icing Conditions.”
|Battelle calls the technology “an affordable, durable, lightweight anti-icing solution for any aerial platform.”|
That success “led to the conclusion that a carbon nanotube-based coating was a potential game-changing technology—one that could provide an affordable, durable, lightweight anti-icing solution for any aerial platform that needs it,” Battelle said.
That work led to a government contract to advance the technology by identifying and addressing potential high-risk issues.
Airplanes (manned and unmanned) have unique performance criteria and system-level integration needs that must be met before the technology can be integrated and deployed, Battelle notes.
However, the technology is “maturing quite nicely, as has been evidenced in recent testing,” said Ontiveros.
He added: “I’m excited about the future; I think we’ve got a real winner.”