That winter annoyance of having to chip ice off your car windshield or missing that flight connection because your plane was held up waiting to be de-iced could be a thing of the past.

Researchers at Colorado State University have invented an ice-repellent coating that tests show out-performs today's best de-icing products.

The innovation is a gel-based, soft coating made of polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, a silicone polymer gel with already widespread industrial use. The coating is environmentally friendly, relatively inexpensive, and long lasting and could keep everything from cars and airplanes to ships and power lines ice-free, researchers say.

Anti-icing coating could make winter windshield scraping a thing of the past.Anti-icing coating could make winter windshield scraping a thing of the past.The performance measure of de-icing coatings is called ice adhesion strength – the stress necessary to remove ice from a surface – and is measured in kilopascals, or kPa, with the lower the score the better. The CSU coating demonstrated ice adhesion strength of about 5 kPa. By contrast, conventional soft coatings have ice adhesion strength of about 40 kPa while other types of de-icing coatings made of rigid materials like Teflon typically perform at around 100 kPa.

The new coating is an anti-icing substance, not a de-icer. Anti-icers delay the formation of ice on surfaces while de-icers facilitate easy removal of ice once it has formed and stuck to a surface.

Liquid de-icers, including ethylene glycol or propylene glycol, are typically used to de-ice planes prior to takeoff. The spraying of salts or glycols is the most common passive de-icing technique used today and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 20 million gallons of de-icing chemicals are used each year by the aviation industry alone.

Use of these chemical de-icers have sparked environmental concerns, as they leach into the groundwater, and, unlike an anti-icing coating, have to be applied repeatedly.

CSU researchers believe their product is a greener, better-performing and more permanent solution to keeping surfaces free from ice and has significant commercial potential.

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