New coating technology that could prevent fuselage and wing ice build-up and avoid the need for de-icing is under development at Georgia Institute of Technology.

The ongoing work, which has been funded for the past seven years by the US National Science Foundation, the Georgia Tech-based National Energy Laboratory and NASA, is developing a titanium-based "superhydrophobic" coating for steel and possibly other metals.

The coating, which would be 20 to 200 nanometres thick, is applied using the sol-gel process. This involves the transition of a colloidal suspension from a liquid phase to a solid gel that can then be cured.

"You would use an oven or plasma furnace to cure the [gel] coating," says Professor C P Wong, chair of Georgia Tech's school of materials science and engineering. Wong says he has been told that General Electric is working to commercialise the technology and expects to have a product within five years. GE was not available for comment.

Wong says increasing the durability of the coating remains key to its commercial application.

Source: Flight International