Ice buildup on planes, cars, and powerlines is not only inconvenient, it can be dangerous. Now, materials scientists have come up with a way to engineer rubbery coatings to repel frozen water, allowing even small pieces of ice to slide off surfaces under their own weight. The new materials aren’t the first to repel ice.
But some previous versions no longer work after frost begins to reshape their surfaces, while others are quick to break down. Researchers report today in Science Advances that they’ve discovered a new way to engineer how individual molecules within rubbery plastics bond to one another to prevent ice from grabbing a stronghold.
Whereas the molecules throughout most of the coating layer are linked together, those at the surface are left free to move around, making it easier for ice to slip off (as in the video). The resulting robust coatings, which can be colored or clear, can be spun, dipped, sprayed, or painted on just about any surface, which could make them useful for protecting everything from car windshields to airplane wings.