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.

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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