The National Transportation Safety Board reports that between 1982 and 2000, icing of airplane surfaces has caused almost 600 aviation accidents and more than 800 deaths in the United States.
Furthermore, the new coating “shouldn’t be any more expensive than what’s being used now,” says Rykaczewski. The team created the superhydrophobic layer with sprays similar to those “selling for $40 in a hardware store.” It will also help preserve the concrete runways that currently get damaged when commercial planes are jet-sprayed with solution, saving airports money.
The focus now is to optimize the coating’s design, improve its performance, and make it apply like paint. “We have a pretty good idea that works relatively well,” Rykaczewski says, “but it needs to be optimized, made durable, and scaled up.”