Namib Desert beetle inspires new frost protection technology
Materials scientists at Virginia Tech say their Namib Desert beetle-inspired frost reduction technology could be used on airplane wings and windshields. The Namib Desert beetle collects water droplets on its back while living in one of the hottest and driest places on earth. Photo by VT / CC
BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 22 (UPI) – Materials scientists at Virginia Tech have developed new frost reduction technology that could be used on airplane wings and windshields.
The technology, which restricts the growth of frost, was inspired by the Namib Desert beetle, famous for its ability to survive and collect water in one of the hottest and driest places on Earth. .
Stagnant water in the Namib Desert, a coastal desert in southwestern Africa, is nonexistent. The Namib Desert beetle, or fog beetle, survives by capturing airborne water on its shell. The bumps on the top of the beetle’s shell encourage the formation of moisture droplets, while its smoother sides repel moisture. The juxtaposition allows the condensation to be channeled directly to the beetle’s mouth.
Virginia Tech researchers mimicked the strategy of limiting frost formation by layering water-attracting patterns on a slippery, water-repellent surface. Microfabrication patterns are created by chemical treatments using a technique called photolithography.
Frost forms when tiny water droplets freeze and build bridges with nearby droplets. If these droplets can be separated and confined to small areas, frost will not form.
âThe fluids go from high pressure to low pressure,â said Jonathan Boreyko, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech, in a press release. âIce serves as a moisture sink because the vapor pressure of ice is lower than the vapor pressure of water. The pressure difference makes ice grow, but designed correctly with this beetle-inspired design, this same effect creates a dry area rather than frost. ”
Boreyko and his research partners at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have tested the antifreeze technology on a limited scale, but they are hopeful that it can eventually be deployed on an industrial scale.
âWe created a single dry area around a piece of ice,â Boreyko said. “The dew drops preferentially develop on the network of hydrophilic points. When the points are sufficiently spaced and one of the drops turns into ice, the ice is no longer able to spread frost on the neighboring drops because they’re too far apart. Instead, the drops evaporate completely, creating a dry area around the ice. “
The technology could save time, money and energy in the aerospace and wind power industries, where large amounts of harsh chemicals are currently used to defrost airplane wings and aircraft. wind turbines.
The beetle-inspired technology is described in a new article, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.