Some Chinese researchers have developed an assembly of copper nanowires to solve the problem of frost that forms on some surfaces, such as aircraft wings. This nanostructure is superhydrophobic and effectively uses solar energy to melt any ice that does form.
Researchers at Dalian University of Technology in China have found a new solution to the problem of icing in many industries, such as on aircraft or even during cryogenics. In an article published in the magazine International journal of extreme productiondetail how the use of copper nanowires allows surfaces to be thawed with near 100% efficiency.
Instead of using more traditional methods such as a mechanical system, electric heating or ultrasonic vibrations, copper nanowires make it possible to create a passive system, which uses only solar energy.
A blend that brings together three properties
The researchers tested different nanowire assemblages, before settling on vertically positioned copper nanowires separated by 1 to 3 micrometres. This nanostructure is superhydrophobic, which limits frost formation. Furthermore, copper nanowires have high thermal conductivity, as well as a photothermal effect. This system is capable of absorbing more than 95% of sunlight and distributing heat over its entire surface, melting any ice in record time. Thanks to the combination of these three properties, defrosting would be 2 to 3 times faster than with all existing nanostructured surfaces.
However, the researchers will have to solve a number of problems before considering large-scale production. According to Xuehu Ma, one of the authors of the article, the durability, extensibility and chemical stability of nanowire assemblies are limited in practical applications involving demanding working conditions “.