Research Highlight

Trap to remove ice from wind turbines, airplanes

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.119 Published online 14 September 2018

A three-layered trap can absorb sunlight and artificial light and convert them into heat that can melt and remove ice from various surfaces, a study reveals1.  Such a trap can prevent ice build-up on wind turbines, powerlines, airplanes and houses in cold environments.

Current ice-removing techniques such as shovelling and hammering are ineffective, while other methods that use chemicals and magnetic particles are harmful and expensive.  

A research team including a scientist from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, has now overcome the drawbacks of the current de-icing techniques by developing a trap that consists of three layers – selective absorber, heat spreader and insulator.

To test this trap’s efficiency in melting frozen water droplets, it was exposed to an artificial light source whose output radiation was 1.8 times that of the sun.

In a specially designed cold chamber, the trap was able to increase temperature by 52 degrees Celsius, dislodging and removing frozen water droplets from a specific surface within 21 seconds. When exposed to sunlight on a cold, windy but sunny day, the trap quickly removed ice from tiny puddles.  

The trap could increase surface temperature by 4 degrees C, absorbing just a tenth of the maximum sunlight. In cold environments where sunlight is less, it could even function by absorbing radiation from artificial lights such as light-emitting diodes. 

The researchers say that this research will open up possibilities to further enhance the de-icing efficiency of the trap by coupling it with other smart materials that respond to a change in temperature.


1. Dash, S. et al. Photothermal trap utilizing solar illumination for ice mitigation. Sci. Adv. 4 (2018) doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0127