08 March 2012, 08:29 BST
Joseph Vinciquerra and I'm a project leader in the Mechanical Integration & Operability Laboratory at GE's Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York
Icing problems for surfaces in freezing temperatures may never again present trouble following news that scientists from GE Global Research that new nanotextured surfaces dramatically reduce ice adhesion. The team's findings, which were presented at the American Physical Society (APS) Conference in Boston, might have an influential impact for the aviation and wind energy industries, among others.
Not only that, the environmental impacts might be noticeably greener. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an estimated 25 million gallons of deicing agents are applied to aircraft taking off from U.S. commercial airports each year. Airplanes also have energy intensive heating systems on board to prevent ice formation on airplanes. Compared to standard surfaces, where ice would form almost immediately without the use of these systems, GE's nano-enabled anti-icing surfaces would delay ice formation for more than a minute on their own.
"Today, airlines and other industry sectors spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on de-icing and other anti-icing measures," said Azar Alizadeh, a materials scientist and project team lead at GE Global Research. "We have successfully engineered new nano surfaces and coatings that readily shed ice and also significantly delay ice formation under extreme conditions. 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."
According to Alizadeh, GE is exploring potential applications of low ice adhesion and anti-icing surfaces and coatings across the company's business portfolio. One example is wind turbines, where icing on wind blades can create drag on rotation speed, diminishing the power-generating capacity and efficiency of the turbine.
While promising results have been achieved in the lab and in various tests, GE's nano-enabled anti-icing surfaces and coatings will require further development before they are durable enough and ready for commercial applications. This video from GE provides compelling evidence of how the surface functions.
On its blog, Joseph Vinciquerra, a project leader in the Mechanical Integration & Operability Laboratory, writes: "What we have essentially done is re-create how atmospheric icing occurs in a lab environment to test our superhydrophobic materials. We've created a test facility that simulates these specific conditions within novel wind tunnels, which allow us to conduct experiments on new materials in the icing conditions of interest."
Aside from the anti-icing surfaces, GE researchers are developing super water-repellent coatings to improve moisture control in steam turbines to enable higher efficiency. They also are exploring these coatings for certain parts of a gas turbine to reduce fouling. This would enable the turbine to run more efficiently and reduce the number of times it needs to be shut down for maintenance.
Photo: GE Global Research
Source: Green Building Elements