UCLA Develops Ice-Preventing Coating


Materials scientist Ximin He, along with a team of researchers from the UCLA Smaueli School of Engineering and colleagues have reportedly developed an ice-prevention coating.

UCLA authors of the study included Zhiyuan He, Mutian Hua, Shuwang Wu and Dong Wu, in addition to colleagues Chenyang Wu and Jianjun Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and Xinyuan Zhu of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The Coating

Inspired by how Antarctic species of fish create proteins to prevent their blood from freezing, scientists from UCLA looked at how the formation of ice could be prevented by focusing on three main properties of what causes ice to form and how those same molecular structures could be recreated.

“Ice formation starts from nucleation, when a small seed crystal of ice first forms, before it grows and then finally adheres to a surface,” said Ximin He, UCLA assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

“While there are anti-ice solutions out there, they’re designed to tackle only one of these three aspects of this complex process, or they only work on certain types of surfaces. This new coating is simple to make and very durable; it is an all-in-one solution to prevent ice formation on many different surfaces, from plastics to metals to ceramics, and under different conditions.”

When creating the coating, scientists decided on the use of polydimethylsiloxane—a nontoxic, silicone-based polymer found in contact lenses, cosmetics, lubricants and other applications.

By spraying the polydimethylsiloxane-based gel onto a variety of surfaces, researchers found that the thin transparent coating successfully prevented freezing by lowering the freezing temperature of water on the surface, delaying ice crystal growth and creating a difficult surface for ice to adhere to.

Experiments using the coating were mostly conducted inside the university’s laboratory, however, one test was performed outdoors in below-freezing temperatures.

According to UCLA, the coating set a record for lowest temperature reached while preventing ice formation. It wasn’t until tests pushed the coating to 31 degrees Celsius below zero (or -23.8 degrees Fahrenheit) that ice formed and remained on a surface’s profile. (Traditionally, water usually freezes at zero degrees Celsius).

The hydrogel also set a record for length of time delaying ice formation—taking more than 65 minutes to form ice at -25 degrees Celsius.

Previously, the record for temperature reached without forming ice on a surface was -28 degrees Celsius and in a same length of time test, froze in -25 degrees Celsius after 40 minutes. The study was conducted in 2016 by Jianjun Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing along with a team of researchers who applied a different coating to silicon and glass surfaces.

UCLA adds that it’s hydrogel coating retains a slippery property, so that when ice does form, it can easily be brushed or blown off a surface without the use of heat or scraping methods.

The study has since been published in Matter and was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Hellman Fellows Fund and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Other Ice-Fighting Coatings

In 2016, PaintSquare Daily News reported on a composite coating developed by researchers from Rice University. Unlike an ice-preventing coating however, the team created an epoxy coating infused with graphene nanoribbons that helped to melt ice verses prevention of its formation.

The coating was developed with the idea that it would help to remove ice in cold-weather applications ranging from wind turbines to aircraft wings.

Another 2016 study conducted by researchers at Colorado State University revealed similar experiments as conducted in the most recent ULCA study. By using the same polydimethylsiloxane material base, researchers created what they called a “de-icer” which uses envisioned at the time included keeping everything from cars and ships to planes and power lines ice-free.

Last year, the University of Michigan introduced its own coating that aimed to make airplanes, marine vessels, powerlines and other large structures ice-proof. In focusing on the development of a coating which had low interfacial toughness, researchers then mapped out the properties of a vast library of substances, adding LIT and interfacial strength data into the equation. By doing this, the team was able to mathematically predict the properties of a coating system without having to test all of them.


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