The Chinese Academy of Sciences has developed an anti-icing coating that uses a self-lubricating layer of water between the ice and the sample surface. The coating is made of special polymers able to attract and hold water.
As the temperature decreases, these polymers – known as hygroscopic – start to swell as they suck in water. This way, a lubricating layer of water forms naturally during icing. "Thus the ice adhesion is reduced greatly and the ice formed atop could be shed off by an action of wind," says the project's lead author Jianjun Wang, who presented the results at a recent American Physical Society meeting in Denver, Colorado. The approach is very different from conventional anti-icing methods that are often "energy-consuming, high-cost, and environmentally harmful," he adds.