2012

A New Spin on Antifreeze

Harvard researchers have invented a way to keep any metal surface free of ice and frost. The treated surfaces quickly shed even tiny, incipient condensation droplets or frost simply through gravity. The discovery has direct implications for a wide variety of metal surfaces such as those used in refrigeration systems, wind turbines, aircraft, marine vessels, and the construction industry.

The researchers invented a technology suited for both high-humidity and extreme pressure, called SLIPS (Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces). SLIPS are designed to expose a defect-free, molecularly flat liquid interface, immobilized by a hidden nanostructured solid. On these ultra-smooth slippery surfaces, fluids and solids — including water drops, condensation, frost, and even solid ice — can slide off easily.

The challenge was to apply this technology to metal surfaces. The group coated the metal with a rough material that the lubricant can adhere to. The coating can be finely sculpted to lock in the lubricant and can be applied over a large scale, on arbitrarily shaped metal surfaces.

For more information, visit www.seas.harvard.edu/news-events/press-releases/a-newspin-on-antifreeze.

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