General Electric's Global Research Center is using nanotechnology to develop special "superhydrophobic" materials that could be used to de-ice aircraft engines without requiring additional power or heat. The GRC recently posted a video of tests of an ice-repelling coating on an airfoil in an icing windtunnel. You can read the blog here
.Video: GE GRC
In the test, two generic airfoils are mounted side-by-side in the lab's icing tunnel, the left one made of titanium and the right one made of aluminum with a thin superhydrophobic coating. Ice forms as air flows over both specimens. Eventually air acting against the accumulated ice causes the airfoils to rotate - and the ice detaches from the coated specimen.
GE says this demonstrates it has developed a true "de-icing" material that relies of aerodynamic forces to release the ice and does not require additional power or heat. This particular coating significantly reduces the adhesion strength of atmospherically formed ice, but GRC says it is also working to create "anti-icing" surfaces where ice does not form at all.
GE says it plans to test the coating on full-scale wind turbine blades. Next step engine?