A U.S. turbine OEM has presented encouraging research on nanotextured aniticing surfaces. These surfaces reduce ice adhesion as well as delay the onset of ice formation in simulated icing conditions. The team, from GE Global Research, was inspired by studies of the Lotus plant, which revealed a nano-textured wax on its leaf surfaces that repels water.
The findings are good news for the wind industry because turbines in cold climates must occasionally shut down when blade sensors detect the weight of excess ice. Even before a shutdown, icing on blades increases stresses and shortens their working life. The anti-icing surfaces would also be useful on aircraft. For instance, the EPA estimates that each year, the about 25 million gallons of deicing agents are sprayed on aircraft before a departure in cold weather. In addition, aircraft use energy-intensive heating systems to prevent ice formation. Compared to standard surfaces, where ice would form almost immediately without the use of these systems, GE says its nano-textured anti-icing surfaces would delay ice formation for more than a minute on their own.
“Today, several industries spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on de-icing and other anti-icing measures,” said Azar Alizadeh, a materials scientist at GE Global Research and project lead on the anti-icing surfaces program. “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.”
While lab shows promising results, nano-textured anti-icing surfaces and coatings will require further development before they are durable enough and ready for commercial applications. WPE