Researchers at Rice University have added superhydrophobic, or water-repelling, capabilities to its de-icer. The graphene-based spray passively prevents water from freezing above 7 degrees.

Rice University scientists have modified their graphene-based de-icer to resist the formation of ice well below the freezing point and added superhydrophobic capabilities. The robust film is intended for use in extreme environments as well as on aircraft, power lines and ships.
(Graphic courtesy of the Tour Group/Rice University)

A tough film forms when Rice's de-icer is coated on a surface. The film, made of conductive and atom-thin graphene nanoribbons, heats the material with electricity, allowing the melting of ice and snow in colder conditions.

To enhance hydophobicity, the graphene nanoribbons are modified with a fluorine compound. Nanoribbons modified with longer perfluorinated chains resulted in films with a higher contact angle, suggesting that the films are tunable for particular conditions.

The spray-coated material is suitable for large applications like aircraft, power lines, radar domes, and ships, according to the researchers.

“We’ve learned to make an ice-resistant material for milder conditions in which heating isn’t even necessary, but having the option is useful,” said Rice chemist James Tour. “What we now have is a very thin, robust coating that can keep large areas free of ice and snow in a wide range of conditions.”


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