Icing represents a complex and expensive problem in different industrial and energy applications such as aircraft, wind turbines, and power lines. Ice contamination on aircraft, specifically, is a multifaceted problem with repercussions for safety, efficiency, costs, and the environment. In-flight ice accumulation causes airflow disruption and decreasing control and performance. Large pieces of ice separating during flight can cause problems to engines and impact propellers. Additionally, frozen contaminants can jam control surfaces.
Icing is a major cause of delays, incidents (2.1% of total incidents), and severe accidents (4% of fatal accidents). The next generation of aircraft targets are to reduce drag by 20%, fuel consumption by 4%, and also to reduce CO2 emissions. A clean and smooth wing surface is essential for natural laminar flow (NLF) and reaching those targets.
Current ice-mitigation technologies in flight include mechanical breaking, electrical heating, freezing point depressant fluid and air bleed systems. De-icing systems can add up to 5% to aircraft weight. This increases fuel consumption, costs, and CO2 emissions by 4% and creates potential failure points. De-icing fluids are also used on the ground to remove ice from aircraft prior to take-off, with operations costing over £10,000 per large aircraft, consuming up to 1500L of fluid. Waste should be collected to prevent pollution and meet environmental regulations, as de-icing fluids increase aquatic toxicity and biochemical oxygen demand in waterways.