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"Ice Curbs" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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A team of researchers from Harvard University have invented a way to keep any metal surface free of ice and frost.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Giving ice--the slip.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Things you like frozen: A frosty mug (Sound effect: ice cube), a fruit bar (Sound effect: slurping), a margarita (Sound effect: drink pouring). Things you like not-so-much frozen: Airplane wings (Sound effect: airplane), railings (Sound effect: train), rooftops (Sound effect: wind blowing), refrigeration blades (Sound effect: fan). Researchers at Harvard University have developed a breakthrough coating for metal surfaces that keeps them virtually free from frost and ice.

It's called, "SLIPS," Slippery Liquid-infused Porous Surfaces. Explained as "a molecularly flat liquid interface immobilized by a hidden nanostructured solid," the result is an ultra-smooth, ultra-slippery surface that causes water droplets and solids like ice just to slide right off even in high humidity and high pressure applications. The coating is non-toxic and non-corrosive.

To test the new coating, the team put it in the deep-freeze applying it to refrigerator cooling fins. Prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures showed it to be completely effective in preventing ice formation at temps slightly below 32 degrees, as well as dramatically reducing ice accumulation in deep-freeze and frost-forming conditions.

With possible applications from aviation to refrigeration, I'm thinking how it might work on skis or boards--that could be (Sound effect: skiing) a slippery slope.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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