Ice-phobic wings may be coming to an aircraft near you

Icing and deicing are big problems for aviation as ice buildups on wings will disrupt airflow by altering the shape of the wing surface – impacting lift. Icing can also happen at any stage of the flight – from when the aircraft is parked on the ground at the gate to when its already up in the sky. To make matters worst, deicing systems add weight to an aircraft while the need to deice on the ground causes causes delays for passenger flights. However, technology could once and for all eliminate the need for deicing on the ground as it might be possible to eliminate the threat of icing all together.

Last Summer, Brett Snyder, the blogger behind the Cranky Flier blog, pointed out a short post on the Wall Street Journal’s Ideas Market blog about a paper entitled: Liquid-Infused Nanostructured Surfaces with Extreme Anti-Ice and Anti-Frost Performance. To put the paper’s thesis or point into plain English, Harvard engineers have apparently developed a way to make things like aircraft, power lines and other objects exposed to harsh elements “ice-phobic.”

They do this with technology that involves fashioning a highly porous surface layer atop the material needing protection with nano-scale fibers being one option and nano-scale bumps being another. This porous surface is then covered with any liquid that doesn’t mix with water and the pores retain the liquid – preventing ice from attaching to the surface.

No ice will appear at all when the temperature is just below freezing while at extreme temperatures, some ice may form but it will slide off with the slightest nudge from a fan-generated breeze or from just plain gravity.

Meanwhile, the AOPA Pilot Blog has just posted this rather interesting video of a new type of hydrophobic coating that repels water and could potentially have aerospace applications:


The video seems to suggest the possibility of coating an aircraft with whatever type of chemical or technology is being depicted and have it shed water, ice and even bugs.

With any luck, we might be seeing some of the above anti-icing technology being deployed by the end of the decade or sometime in the next one to not only save the aviation industry time and money, but to also save lives.


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