MIT Researchers Develop Anti-Icing Technology

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Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a simple technology that could help to prevent icing on aircraft wings, the university announced on Wednesday. The team experimented with ridged surfaces to see if they could reduce the time it takes for a water droplet to hit a surface and then recoil. The quicker the water is repelled from the surface, the less time it has to freeze. "We've demonstrated that we can use surface texture to reshape a drop as it recoils, in such a way that the overall contact time is significantly reduced," said James Bird, the team's lead researcher. "The upshot is that the surface stays drier longer which has the potential to be useful for a variety of applications." But won't ridged surfaces reduce aerodynamic efficiency? Not necessarily, one of the researchers told AVweb.

"It is known that adding features in certain ways helps reduce drag and improves aerodynamic efficiency," said Kripa Varanasi, a professor of mechanical engineering. "For example, blade surfaces in some turbines are dimpled to reduce drag and also increase cooling. The goal would be to be optimize for both deicing/water repellency and aerodynamic efficiency." Varanasi said he expects further experiments will show the contact time between the water and the surface can be reduced even further, through optimization of the texture. "I hope we can manage to get a 70 to 80 percent reduction," he said. The textures are easy to create on aluminum surfaces using standard tools, Varanasi said, so the process could easily be adopted for industrial production.