Research

Bounce or Freeze?

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Icing is a major problem for aircraft.  When ice builds up on the leading edge of a wing it creates major disruptions in flow around the wing and can lead to a loss of flight control. One of the important factors in predicting and controlling ice building up is knowing when and where water droplets will freeze. The video above shows how surface conditions on the wing affect how an impacting droplet freezes. On a subzero hydrophilic surface, a falling droplet spreads and freezes over a wide area, which would hasten ice buildup. A hydrophobic surface is slightly better, with the droplet freezing over a smaller area, whereas a superhydrophobic surface shows no ice buildup. Unfortunately, at present superhydrophobic surfaces and surface treatments are extremely delicate, making them unsuitable for use on aircraft leading edges. (Video credit: G. Finlay)

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