More than 10,000 flights were canceled last week, as winter storm Jonas brought snow and ice to the eastern coast of the US.
A new method involving a mixture of graphene and nanoribbons could be used to de-ice planes and keep airlines from canceling flights.
Researchers placed the mixture on rotor blades, which reached more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit and about 600 degrees while the blades were in motion.
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Rice University scientists embedded graphene nanoribbon-infused epoxy in a section of helicopter blade to test its ability to remove ice through Joule heating (pictured). But a study has developed a thin coating of a graphene and nanoribbon mixture could de-ice planes, helicopters and power lines
Rice University melted centimeter-thick ice from a helicopter rotor plane in a -4 degree Fahrenheit environment during the study.
When a small voltage was applied, the coating delivered electrothermal heat, called Joule heating, to the surface, which melted the ice.
WHAT IS GRAPHENE?
Graphene is a single atomic layer of carbon atoms bound in a hexagonal network.
It not only promises to revolutionize semiconductor, sensor, and display technology, but could also lead to breakthroughs in fundamental quantum physics research.
It is often depicted as an atomic-scale chicken wire made of carbon atoms and their bonds.
Scientists believe it could one day be used to make transparent conducting materials, biomedical sensors and even extremely light, yet strong, aircraft of the future.
Similar to another important nanomaterial – carbon nanotubes – graphene is incredibly strong – around 200 times stronger than structural steel.
‘This permits application of the GNR-epoxy composite for de-icing of surfaces through Joule (voltage-induced) heating generated by the voltage across the composite.’
‘A power density of 0.5 W/cm2 was delivered to remove ~1-cm-thick (14 g) monolith of ice from a static helicopter rotor blade surface in a ̶ 20 °C environment,’ according to the journal published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.
The coating is a combination of graphene nanoribbons in epoxy.
The nonoribbons are produced commercially by unzipping nanotubes, a method that was first discovered by Rice.
Traditional methods call for large sheets of expensive graphene, but researchers in the lab of chemist James Tour at Rice University determined that nanoribbons would combine and produce electricity throughout the material with much lower loadings.
Nanoribbons in films have been used to de-ice radar domes and glass in previous experiments, since the films can be transparent to the eye.
Helicopter rotor plane (pictured). Traditional methods call for large sheets of expensive graphene, but researchers in the lab of chemist James Tour at Rice University determined that nanoribbons would combine and produce electricity throughout the material with much lower loadings
‘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,’ Tour said.
In Rice’s study, the nanoribbons were no more than five percent of the mixture.
An F-4E fighter plane covered with ice is seen during a snow and freezing rain test at the Aerospace Test and Evaluation Centre in Seosan, about 150 km (93 miles) southwest of Seoul.
Abdul-Rahman Raji, Rice graduate student and head researcher, spread a thin layer of the mixture on an area of the rotor blade.
The thermally conductive nickel abrasion sleeve, a leading edge on rotor blades, was replaced.
Rice University melted centimeter-thick ice from a helicopter rotor plane in a -4 degree Fahrenheit environment during the study. When a small voltage was applied, the coating delivered electrothermal heat, called Joule heating, to the surface, which melted the ice
The team was able to heat the mixture to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
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 said.
The lab reported that the composite remained robust in temperatures up to nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
As a bonus, Tour said, the coating may also help protect aircraft from lightning strikes and provide an extra layer of electromagnetic shielding.