New Material Eliminates the Need for Aircraft Deicers

SLUGs coatings on the right three panels at a test station repel snow and ice, but snow builds up on an untreated panel (far left). Credit: Chihiro Urata
Scientists have developed a liquid-like substance that can make aircraft wings and other surfaces so slippery that ice cannot adhere. The slick substance is secreted from a film on the wing’s surface as temperatures drop below freezing and retreats back into the film as temperatures rise. The liquid-secreting materials are called self-lubricating organogels, or SLUGs.

The idea came about when observing real slugs, which secrete a liquid mucus on their skin that repels dirt so that the dirt slides off. The gel and liquid-repellent substance are held in a matrix of silicone resin. The mix is cured and applied to a surface as a nearly transparent and solid film coating. Tests showed that the secretion was a reversible process.