Avoiding Ice

Keeping ice from forming on a surface is a major engineering challenge. Typically, there’s no controlling certain factors – like the size and impact speed of droplets – so engineers try to tame ice by changing the surface. This can be through chemicals – as with deicing fluids used on aircraft – or by tuning the surface itself.

One way to do this is by making the surface superhydrophobic – or extremely water repellent. These surfaces are rough on a nanoscale level, but they’re delicate, and once ice gets a grip on them, it’s even harder to remove. In a recent study, however, researchers used particles with both hydrophobic and hydrophilic – water-attracting – properties to create a superior ice-resistant surface. The combination of hydrophobic and hydrophilic aspects to the particles made supercooled droplets break up on contact with the surface. This made the drops smaller and decreased their contact time, making it harder for them to stick and freeze. (Image credit: Pixabay; research credit: M. Schwarzer et al.; via Chembites; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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