Innovative Treatment Reduces Ice Formation on Metal Surfaces

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Home / Innovative Treatment Reduces Ice Formation on Metal Surfaces

Ice is lighter than liquid water. Photo by Sara Smith.

A new treatment, called Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface (SLIPS), can make a metal’s surface resistant to the formation of ice, or icephobic.

This anti-ice procedure, developed by researchers of Harvard University, could have important implications in many sectors, such as building and aircraft construction.

Properties of Ice

Ice is formed when water (H2O) goes from the liquid to the solid state. At atmospheric pressure, the liquid-solid change of phase takes place at 0 oC.

In ice, the H2O molecules are arranged into hexagonal-shaped crystals; this is due to the hydrogen bond, an electrostatic interaction between the hydrogen atom(s) of one molecule and the oxygen atom(s) of another. This gives ice a less compact structure; consequently, ice is lighter than liquid water.

This is a unique property for a solid – without this, it would be impossible for animals and/or plants to survive in waters in very cold areas of the Earth such as the Arctic and Antarctic.

Problems Associated with Ice

Although ice is essential for some forms of life on Earth, it can also cause numerous problems.

Ice is a very slippery material. Roads covered with ice, for instance, can pose a serious safety threat to people and/or vehicles moving on them.

Furthermore, water solidification is associated with an increase in volume. Consequently, if ice forms inside another material (for instance in a wall in a building or in a part of an engine), the expansion causes pressure inside the material itself, and often results in the formation of cracks. Further to the problems related to this, additional maintenance is required in these cases, thus generating extra costs for the society.

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