New research aims to keep planes and wind turbines ice-free

Research Excellence | Strategy 7: Research Support
Theme: Innovation
UBCO engineering Professor Dr. Mohammad Zarifi (left) examines a prototype test blade with doctoral student Zahra Azim (centre) and lab manager Mandeep Jain (left). The blade has been equipped with a microwave sensor, heaters and a low interfacial toughness coating, so ice will melt automatically when detected by the sensor.

Engineers at UBC Okanagan have been collaborating with researchers from the University of Toronto to make a significant breakthrough in de-icing technology.

Their latest research, published in this month’s edition of Nature Communications, examines a smart, hybrid—meaning passive and also active—de-icing system that works by combining an interfacial coating with an ice-detecting microwave sensor.

This coating integrates the sensors into the material while enabling heat to dislodge ice without the need for a person or machine to physically melt it, explains UBCO’s Dr. Mohammad Zarifi.

“Many of us have had the misfortune of sitting on a plane waiting for it to be de-iced while fretting about missing a connecting flight,” says Dr. Zarifi, an Associate Professor at UBCO’s School of Engineering and report co-author. “Our new technology takes a hybrid approach by adding sensors within an ice repellent coating that can easily be added to aviation or wind turbine blades.”

Dr. Zarifi explains that undesired ice accumulation is problematic with many renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines and hydroelectric dams, aviation and power transmission. Ice mitigation strategies can be divided into either active or passive methods. Active de-icing involves an external energy input used to remove the ice, typically through thermal, chemical or mechanical methods. In contrast, passive de-icing either reduces the accretion rate of ice, lowers the adhesion strength between ice and the surface or both.

Please read the full story at the UBC Okanagan website.

Through Strategy 7: Research Support, UBC is improving support for researchers across the university through enhanced core facilities, spaces and services.