JAN 25, 2016 09:36 PM PST

Graphene ribbons melt ice on helicopters

A new nanotech coating can melt ice on helicopter blades and might offer a new way to de-ice aircraft, wind turbines, and power lines.

In tests, the material melted centimeter-thick ice from a static helicopter rotor blade in a minus-4-degree Fahrenheit environment. When a small voltage was applied, the coating delivered electrothermal heat—called Joule heating—to the surface, which melted the ice.

The coating is a mixture of graphene nanoribbons in epoxy. The nanoribbons, produced commercially by unzipping nanotubes, are highly conductive.
 
Scientists embedded graphene nanoribbon-infused epoxy in a section of helicopter blade to test its ability to remove ice through Joule heating.

Rather than trying to produce large sheets of expensive graphene, scientists in the lab of chemist James Tour at Rice University determined years ago that nanoribbons in composites would interconnect and conduct electricity across the material with much lower loadings than traditionally needed.

Previous experiments showed how the nanoribbons in films could be used to de-ice radar domes and even glass, since the films can be transparent to the eye.

“Applying this composite to wings could save time and money at airports where the glycol-based chemicals now used to de-ice aircraft are also an environmental concern,” says Tour.

In lab tests, nanoribbons were no more than 5 percent of the composite. The researchers spread a thin coat of the composite on a segment of rotor blade supplied by a helicopter manufacturer; they then replaced the thermally conductive nickel abrasion sleeve used as a leading edge on rotor blades.

They were able to heat the composite to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The team reported the findings in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

For wings or blades in motion, the thin layer of water that forms first between the heated composite and the surface should be enough to loosen ice and allow it to fall off without having to melt completely, Tour says.

The lab reported that the composite remained robust in temperatures up to nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit.

As a bonus, Tour adds, the coating may also help protect aircraft from lightning strikes and provide an extra layer of electromagnetic shielding.

Scientists from Rice, the University of Akron, and the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, collaborated on the project. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Carson Helicopter supported the research.

This article was originally published on futurity.org.
About the Author
  • Futurity features the latest discoveries by scientists at top research universities in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The nonprofit site, which launched in 2009, is supported solely by its university partners (listed below) in an effort to share research news directly with the public.
You May Also Like
NOV 09, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 09, 2018
The Quest to Determine the Length of a Saturnian Day Becomes the Gift that Keeps on Giving
As humankind sets sight on the interstellar space, some may forget that there are still plenty of mysteries remained within our planetary backyard. Take Sa...
DEC 11, 2018
Plants & Animals
DEC 11, 2018
Geckos Can Run Across Water, New Study Investigates How
Geckos are agile small reptiles that, with the help of their grippy little feet, sport the innate ability to scale vertical walls and perform incredible gl...
DEC 17, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 17, 2018
Are We Any Closer to Harnessing Fusion to Generate Electricity?
Electricity is essential to our everyday lives, but the way we generate electricity with the burning of fossil fuels isn’t particularly suitable for...
DEC 20, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 20, 2018
Bacteria-Powered Superfluids
Viscosity is the property of a fluid. It is the measure of its resistance to transformative stress, in a simpler explanation, the friction between its mole...
DEC 24, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 24, 2018
Saturn Won't Have its Rings Forever, So Enjoy Them While They Last
If you’ve been following the news lately, then you might’ve heard that Saturn is losing its rings more quickly than astronomers ever realized....
FEB 03, 2019
Space & Astronomy
FEB 03, 2019
Explaining the Strange Orbit of 'The Goblin' with... a Ninth Planet?
Astronomers have tried to prove the existence of a ninth planet in our solar system for the better part of the last decade. This hypothetical planet has be...
Loading Comments...