Graphene Composite May Keep Wings Ice-Free

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February 4, 2016 | Originally published by Date Line: February 4 on

Rice University develops conductive graphen-based material to heat surfaces, simplify ice removal.

A thin coating of graphene nanoribbons in epoxy developed at Rice University has proven effective at melting ice on a helicopter blade. The coating by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour may be an effective real-time de-icer for aircraft, wind turbines, transmission lines and other surfaces exposed to winter weather, according to a new paper in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. In tests, the lab 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 nanoribbons produced commercially by unzipping nanotubes, a process also invented at Rice, are highly conductive. Rather than trying to produce large sheets of expensive graphene, the lab 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. 

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