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Scraping Ice From Windshields May Become Obsolete

A rubbery compound being applied to a sheet of glass (courtesy: University of Michigan).

Scientists at the University of Michigan say they may have found the solution to one of the most hated winter-time chores – scraping ice from car windshields. Not only that. De-icing of airplanes’ wings and fuselage may become the thing of the past.

Taking a different approach in the quest for an efficient and durable ice repellent, researchers discovered that it is much harder for ice crystals to stick to a rubbery coating than to a rigid surface such as a car windshield.

Due to a phenomenon called ‘interfacial cavitation,’ only a small amount of force, even the force of gravity, can break ice off a surface treated with rubbery compound.

The new coating proved able to withstand hundreds of freeze-thaw cycles. Even more importantly, scientists were able to fine-tune it for different types of surfaces.

The first practical application may come within a year, initially in large industrial-size freezers where workers have a lot of trouble separating frozen food packages. Cars and airplanes, the team says, will come next.