Next-Gen Materials

Icephobic Coatings

In February 2021, an ice storm and extreme cold weather hit the south-central US resulting in over 4.5 million people without power for more than a week and leading to as many as 702 deaths. Many factors contributed to the power outage, including a lack of winterization of natural gas supply lines. The ice buildup on wind turbines was also a factor in the power failure as wind generation dropped by almost 50% over the entire state of Texas.

Ice and freezing rain are dangers to the aviation industry and limit renewable energy production from wind turbines. Some technologies currently used to mitigate ice buildup include passive heating, which requires energy, and chemical sprays that can lead to environmental damage.

We believe our patent-pending, graphene-based technology can be an environmentally friendly solution to reduce the problem of ice buildup for aviation (including drones) and wind energy applications through a passive icephobic coating. Our proprietary coating enhanced with graphene reduces the adhesive bond at the surface to promote ice removal by aerodynamic, vibration, and other forces.

To date, various ZEN icephobic coatings have been tested at a third-party lab for adhesion strength, as measured by pressure in kilopascals (kPa) required to dislodge ice from the surface. ZEN’s coatings have demonstrated an adhesion strength repeatedly around 20 kPa, a significant improvement over the current commercial products. For comparison, the ice adhesion strength of a bare aluminum alloy is ~500 kPa, while to be classified as icephobic, the adhesion strength must be less than 100 kPa.

These results have the potential to significantly increase safety for vehicles such as drones, aircraft, ocean vessels, wind turbines, and other applications where, in cold weather climates, there is the potential for ice to accrete on surfaces, causing hazardous breakdowns in function.

With excellent and consistent ice shedding results, ZEN aims to optimize its icephobic coatings and develop additional applications.

ZEN anticipates that the first commercial application of its patent-pending coating could be used in drone technologies allowing for efficient all-weather operation. Other additional applications include powerlines, large wind turbines, ship structures (railings, etc.), and oil rigs, especially in Arctic operations, along with tall buildings where ice buildup could pose a public hazard.