Simple changes in environmental conditions may render surfaces designed to inhibit the growth of ice ineffective, concludes a study published in Nature Communications this week. The finding could have implications for the future development of materials which are used in fields such as aeronautics. ‘Icephobic’ coatings are used in a wide range of applications where the formation of ice is undesired, such as power transmission lines and aerodynamic wing structures. Dimos Poulikakos and colleagues examine the mechanism through which ice forms on such surfaces, and find that changes in the humidity and air flow can alter it drastically, making the icephobicity ineffective. These findings could aid the design of more versatile icephobic surfaces in the future.
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