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University of Michigan's anti-ice coating would be perfect for cars

A clear, spray-on coating could completely prevent ice from building up on surfaces, which could make all manner of devices more efficient, vehicles included.

This coating could also save time and energy spent waiting for the defroster to kick in.

Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering

Imagine a world where you don't need an ice scraper. Sounds nice, doesn't it? It also sounds a bit like science fiction, right? Well, it's not. In fact, the University of Michigan developed a coating that could make ice scraping a thing of the past.

UM first investigated anti-ice coatings that focused on its ability to shed water. However, the true breakthrough came when researchers looked at a phenomenon called interfacial cavitation. From that, they realized that it would be easier to repel ice by using a rubbery surface that's prone to deformation with little applied force -- because when it deforms, it breaks the strong grip that ice would otherwise have on a solid surface.

Thus, the coating in question focuses less on its ability to repel water and more on its ability to prevent ice from sticking with any permanence. The finalized coating seen in the video has a rubber-like texture because of that interfacial cavitation. If it were applied to a windshield, and it didn't mess up forward vision, you'd never have to worry about breaking out the scraper.

Don't expect this to arrive next week, though. "I think the first commercial application will be in linings for commercial frozen food packaging, where sticking is often a problem. We'll probably see that within the next year," said Anish Tuteja, a UM materials science professor. "Using this technology in places like cars and airplanes will be very complex because of the stringent durability and safety requirements, but we're working on it."