Development of new surface technology inspired by nature

Claus  Bischoff

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Development of new surface technology inspired by nature

On a global scale, the cost of preventing icing-up, combating ice, and damage and energy loss from the effects of icing-up runs into billions. However nature’s own elegant invention of a freezing point depressing protein found in the beetle Tenebrio molitor Linnaeus has inspired specialists from different disciplines to find a solution to the problem.

The same protein is also found in certain fish and bacteria, making it possible for these organisms to survive in an extremely cold Arctic environment.

The specialists are working on developing a coating which will prevent icing-up down to -5°C and which even at lower temperatures will minimise the effect of the ice’s ability to stick to the surface underneath so that it can be loosened with relatively little effort.

The work is being carried out as part of the innovation consortium ‘Nanobionic Freezing Point Depressing Surfaces’, which has been formed as a direct result of an industrial need for coating systems and nanoparticles with freezing point depressing properties.

Through continued industrial analysis and testing, the coating technology will become mature enough to meet the specific requirements from industries as diverse as the wind-turbine, airline, refrigeration and ventilation industries.

The following commercial partners have chosen to be part of the innovation consortium:

  • The wind-turbine industry is represented by Vestas Wind Systems A/S.
  • The airline industry is represented by Mankiewicz Gebr. & Co., which supplies varnish to the airline industry.
  • The refrigeration industry is represen-ted by Gram Commercial A/S, Gram Equipment A/S and Lu-ve S.p.A.
  • The ventilation industry is represented by Nilan A/S.

The consortium is being managed by the centre for Materials Testing at the Danish Technological Institute. As well as the Danish Technological Institute, Roskilde University and the University of Aarhus are also part of the consortium. Finally, at its inception, the consortium entered into an agreement with the Biomolecular Design of Surfaces and Materials (BIOM) group at the Fraunhofer IFAM-Department of Adhesive Bonding Technology and Surfaces in Germany involving their work with peptides/protein synthesis and analyses.

It is expected that the establishment of a scientific and industrial environment for the development of bionic solutions will facilitate the development of other new surface technologies.

As there are still countless other material-technological solutions which can draw their inspiration from nature, the existence of such an interdisciplinary nanobionic innovation consortium puts Denmark at the forefront of developing tomorrow’s smart materials.