Study provides proof of concept for keeping surfaces 90 percent dry and frost free indefinitely -- without chemicals or energy inputs
Nothing foretells the coming of winter like frost on windshields.
Deicing airplanes using antifreeze chemicals is a common practice during winter months. Virginia Tech's new anti-frosting technology has the potential for use in aerospace applications, including airplane wing manufacturing.
Credit: Public Domain
While the inconvenience of scraping or defrosting car windows may define cold mornings for many drivers, the toll frost takes on the larger economy is more than just a nuisance. From delayed flights to power outages, ice buildup can cost consumers and companies billions of dollars every year in lost efficiency and mechanical breakdown.
New research from Virginia Tech, published this week in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, hopes to change that. With the world's first demonstration of a passive anti-frosting surface, the study provides a proof of concept for keeping surfaces 90 percent dry and frost free indefinitely - all without any chemicals or energy inputs.
"Frosting is a big issue, and researchers have been working to solve this problem for years," said Farzad Ahmadi, a doctoral student in Virginia Tech's Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics in the College of Engineering and the study's lead author.
Ahmadi explained that traditional approaches to fighting frost have relied on the application of antifreeze chemicals or energy inputs, like heat. Even the age-old method of throwing salt down on roadways is essentially a chemical treatment. Other recent advances include special coatings for surfaces that prevent frost formation, but these coatings aren't durable and tend to wear off easily.
"For this project, we're not using any kind of special coating, chemicals, or energy to overcome frost," said Ahmadi. "Instead we're using the unique chemistry of ice itself to prevent frost from forming."
Using a simple approach to design, the researchers created their anti-frosting surface on untreated aluminum by patterning ice stripes onto a microscopic array of elevated grooves. The microscopic grooves act as sacrificial areas, where stripes of intentional ice form and create low pressure zones. These low-pressure areas pull nearby moisture from the air onto the nearest ice stripe, keeping the overlapping intermediate areas free of frost, even in humid, sub-freezing conditions.
These sacrificial ice stripes make up only 10 percent of the material's surface area, leaving the remaining 90 percent completely dry.
"The real power of this concept is that the ice stripes themselves are the chemistry, which means the material we use is irrelevant," said Jonathan Boreyko, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. "As long as you have that proper pattern of sacrificial ice, the material you use could be virtually anything. So there are a lot of possibilities."
The researchers see immediate applications for the technology in the HVAC industry, where the outdoor components of heat exchangers (like heat pumps and fan systems) already utilize a pattern of micro-fins on their surfaces. Manufacturers would just need to apply the right pattern of grooves on those fins to keep frost from building up inside the systems.
Other applications include aerospace materials, like airplane wings. And yes, with a little more development, car windshields are also an option for the anti-frosting technology, which has already been granted a full patent.
In addition to its unprecedented anti-frosting qualities, the technology could carry additional benefits: It may help to offset traditional methods of fighting ice that carry troubling implications for the environment. For example, it takes thousands of gallons of antifreeze chemicals to defrost the wings of one airplane for a single flight. Those chemicals run off into groundwater, get dispersed into the air as tiny droplets, and may have lasting effects on vegetation and wildlife - even people.
"The good thing about ice is that it's environmentally friendly," said Ahmadi. "It's not like other chemicals or even salt, which not only stick around but also get diluted or watered down over time."
Boreyko said one of the study's most important contributions was the development of a rational model for how much chemical (in this case, the chemical is ice) to apply in order to keep a surface dry.
"We've known the trick for centuries," he said. "You put down a low-pressure chemical, like salt, and it keeps everything else around it pretty dry. But now we're making that effect everlasting, and we're making its distribution rational."
This research was partially funded by the National Science Foundation and the 3M Company.
Additional co-authors of the study include Grady Iliff, a 2017 engineering science and mechanics graduate from Virginia Tech's undergraduate program; Saurabh Nath, a 2017 graduate from Virginia Tech's engineering mechanics master's program; Pengtao Yue, associate professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Mathematics; and Bernadeta Srijanto and C. Collier, both of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Media Assets: Download photos and b-roll here: https:/
Michael Stowe | EurekAlert!
A robot and software make it easier to create advanced materials
06.12.2019 | Rutgers University
First field measurements of laughing gas isotopes
05.12.2019 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
University of Texas and MIT researchers create virtual UAVs that can predict vehicle health, enable autonomous decision-making
In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location...
With ultracold chemistry, researchers get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction
The coldest chemical reaction in the known universe took place in what appears to be a chaotic mess of lasers. The appearance deceives: Deep within that...
Abnormal scarring is a serious threat resulting in non-healing chronic wounds or fibrosis. Scars form when fibroblasts, a type of cell of connective tissue, reach wounded skin and deposit plugs of extracellular matrix. Until today, the question about the exact anatomical origin of these fibroblasts has not been answered. In order to find potential ways of influencing the scarring process, the team of Dr. Yuval Rinkevich, Group Leader for Regenerative Biology at the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease at Helmholtz Zentrum München, aimed to finally find an answer. As it was already known that all scars derive from a fibroblast lineage expressing the Engrailed-1 gene - a lineage not only present in skin, but also in fascia - the researchers intentionally tried to understand whether or not fascia might be the origin of fibroblasts.
Fibroblasts kit - ready to heal wounds
Research from a leading international expert on the health of the Great Lakes suggests that the growing intensity and scale of pollution from plastics poses serious risks to human health and will continue to have profound consequences on the ecosystem.
In an article published this month in the Journal of Waste Resources and Recycling, Gail Krantzberg, a professor in the Booth School of Engineering Practice...
03.12.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
06.12.2019 | Earth Sciences
06.12.2019 | Life Sciences
06.12.2019 | Information Technology