Coatings for ice-free aircrafts

A research project completed in April 2022 at the University of Illinois, USA, aimed to develop frost-resistant, antibacterial paint systems.

De-icing of an aircraft
If the wings of an aircraft are iced up, they have to be de-iced for a long time. Newly developed coatings provide long-lasting protection against ice. Photo: stock.adobe.com - Chalabala

Surfaces coated in this way resist frost and ice accumulation longer than conventionally treated aircraft outer shells. Glycols, for example, are water-soluble and are often washed off before the aircraft can take off. The researchers therefore started with the coating itself and modified the paints so that the anti-icing effect lasts longer and they are more environmentally friendly.

The results of the studies are 80 different coatings. They can be applied to aluminium, steel and plastics by spraying, without the need for pre-treatment. Accumulating ice crystals can be removed by simply tilting them; on aircraft, slight air movements are sufficient for frost to virtually roll off.

Phase change materials against ice build up

The polymer coatings are based on so-called phase change materials (PCM). These can store a high proportion of heat and cold energy and release it again without loss. The surface protects the underlying substrate from various undesirable substances such as ice or even bacteria.

Another possible application is the coating of traffic signs and automotive parts; here it is advantageous that the paint systems are transparent. Likewise, the researchers see possible applications in systems in the energy and transport industries that must function in cold climates. The research team has been able to implement additional functionalities in the paint systems – such as self-healing properties.

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