GE Global Research has developed new nanocoatings that not only shed ice but actually delay ice formation, even under extreme atmospheric conditions, the company says.
Such capabilities could hold major potential for aviation, wind energy and other anti-icing applications, GE reported this week at the APS March Meeting 2012, the world’s largest physics meeting.
Azar Alizadeh / Langmuir
|Scientists at GE Global Research measured the onset of icing by monitoring the temperature of a supercooled drop of water on a surface, using an infrared camera. The spike in the drop’s temperature indicates the start of icing.|
“We have successfully engineered new nano surfaces and coatings that readily shed ice and also significantly delay ice formation under extreme conditions,” said Azar Alizadeh, a materials scientist at GE Global Research and project lead on the anti-icing surfaces program.
“These technologies could one day reduce and possibly even eliminate the need for existing anti-icing measures, maintaining safety while also saving businesses and consumers time and money.”
Alizadeh’s research was recently published in the journal Langmuir. The article presents an in-depth analysis of ice formation dynamics and provides a comprehensive perspective on the efficacy of textured surfaces for nonicing applications.
25M Gallons of Deicing
About 25 million gallons of deicing agents are applied each year to aircraft taking off from U.S. commercial airports, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Airlines also have powerful heating systems on board airplanes to prevent ice formation.
Overall, current de-icing and anti-icing strategies are extremely energy- and cost-intensive, with the annual global tab running into hundreds of millions of dollars, Alizadeh reports.
Icing is also a menace to wind turbines, where ice on blades can create a drag on rotation, greatly diminishing the turbine’s efficiency and power generating capacity.
GE says that on standard surfaces where ice would normally form almost immediately, its nano-enabled anti-icing surfaces alone would delay ice formation for more than a minute.
The company is also exploring other potential applications for low ice adhesion and anti-icing technology in both coatings and surfaces.
Although lab work and early testing have been promising, GE says, the technology is not yet ready for commercial applications. For example, further development is needed to address the coatings’ durability, according to GE.
Lessons of a Lotus
The development of nanotextured anti-icing surfaces and coatings has been an integral part of GE’s advanced nanotechnology research program, the company says. Scientists were inspired by research on the Lotus plant, which revealed a nanotextured wax on the leaf surface that can repel water.
In addition to the anti-icing research, GE scientists are reportedly developing super water-repellent coatings to improve moisture control in steam turbines to enable higher efficiency and in gas turbines to reduce fouling. This would enable the turbine to run more efficiently and reduce the number of maintenance shutdowns.
With sites in New York, China, India and Germany—and a fifth opening soon in Brazil—GE Global Research is the hub of technology development for all of GE's businesses.