In the late 1990s, NASA Ames Research Center in California invented an anti-icing fluid that kept ice from building up on airplane wings. The fluid, when applied to a dry surface, prevented the ice from even forming a surface bond; if applied before ice formed, it served as a deicer. The formula contains propylene glycol, which has a very low freezing point, and a thickener that helps it adhere to the surface. Ice gathers on top of the surface, and can be wiped off with little effort.

NASA Ames’ anti-icing agent originally was developed for airplane wing deicing (left). WorldSource now uses the formula in its Ice Free spray for car windshields. (NASA Ames)

The fluid had obvious commercial applications, and WorldSource of Palm Desert, CA, obtained the license to the formula and is now the sole manufacturer and distributor of the fluid for windshield applications. Their product, Ice Free, is a spray for automobile windshields that can protect down to 20 °F. It is applied prior to inclement weather with a standard spray bottle, and prevents ice or snow from bonding on the car’s windshield, side and rear windows, and mirrors.

The spray eliminates the need to wait for car defrosters to thaw the ice, and ends the scraping and chipping of ice on the windshield. One swipe of the windshield wipers clears windshields treated with the fluid, and one stroke with a squeegee clears other windows and mirrors. It also serves as a deicer — if the fluid is not applied before the ice sets, it can be sprayed directly on the ice, helping it to thaw.

Visit www.worldsourceinc.net for more information on Ice Free. To learn more about this and other NASA spinoffs, visit www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2006/index.html.

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