Ice accumulation is not only a costly problem, but a dangerous one. Dr. Joanna Aizenberg is researching surfaces that repel water droplets and prevent ice from accumulating. Patterned surfaces could be used on roads, vehicles, powerlines, and pipes to prevent ice buildup. In tests, freezing was impossible on the patterned surfaces even at temperatures as cold as -22 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that temperature, the ice was easily removed with mild force. Current research will address concerns over cost, scale-up feasibility, and durability of these surfaces.
There are no de-icing technologies that are sustainable. Current solutions are salt mixtures, other chemical applications, extreme mechanical force, and heaters. The salt and chemical applications are toxic, resource-intensive, expensive, and unreliable. They can also corrode the very material they seek to protect.
These patterned surfaces are inspired by those that exist on mosquito eyes and water strider insects. In both cases, a microstructural pattern discourages the adhesion of water. The engineered materials are directly mimetic of their natural counterparts.
Ice accumulation and the environmental impact of de-icing.Edit Summary