Clariant is supporting the ZHAW School of Engineering in Winterthur, Switzerland, in a major R&D collaboration on-target to achieve a breakthrough in anti-freeze technology. Sectors such as wind power, refrigeration and aviation will benefit from more reliable cold temperature performance and cuts in energy use if trials led by researchers at the ZHAW to prevent or drastically minimize surface ice build-up are successful.

Backed by Clariant, the GEBERT RÜF STIFTUNG, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), and RETC Renewable Energy Technology Center GmbH, a Hamburg-based joint venture between REpower Systems AG and Suzlon Energy Ltd, the project focuses on three research areas. These are: anti-adhesion coatings to prevent ice from sticking to surfaces; condensation delay to slow-down the creation of condensation on cold surfaces; and anti-freeze coatings to prevent water freezing on glass. Clariant’s materials are being used in all three research areas.

Anti-Adhesive Coatings

Initial research began in 2007 aimed at eliminating ice formation on wind turbine rotor blades. Every year, the wind power industry incurs the heavy cost of heating rotor blades in order to ensure the continued operation of turbines during the cold winter months.

The successful creation of an anti-adhesive, polymer-based coating to reduce ice from forming, or at least minimize the adhesion of ice so that the vibration of the rotating blades causes ice to fall off independently, will deliver a major step forward in allowing turbines to work effectively throughout the year and avoid high energy costs.

Although various surfaces are still undergoing tests, results so far indicate new possibilities to protect turbine blades from ice formation using this method.

Condensation Delay

A new polymer by Clariant for the refrigeration sector could lead to appliances using less energy, and reduce the need for time-consuming de-icing processes. The research team has created stable frost-protecting layers that drastically slow down the formation of condensation in hot/cold environments and consequently slow down the development of ice. The technology is currently being tested in a variety of applications, including freezers.

Anti-Freeze Coatings

The creation of an anti-freeze coating that prevents flowing water from freezing on glass may open new doors for the development of ice-free windscreens and aircraft windows without the need for heating elements and deicers. Tests indicate that, depending on the system used, the coatings can ensure a delay in freezing time of between one to three hours.

“Ice causes major operational problems and costs to businesses and utilities but also to private individuals. The potential for coatings that can prevent or slow down ice formation is therefore enormous,” comments Achim Stankowiak from Clariant, Head of Application Engineering & Aviation.

“As the material partner in this project we are delighted to see the innovations and those still under development effectively supporting the promising results achieved so far. We are looking forward to seeing how through our continued collaboration with the team of Martina Hirayama at ZHAW the technologies can be extended to a wide range of application areas, from wind power through to power lines, vehicle windscreens and aircraft.”