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Combatting ice and erosion in extreme low temperatures - EIROS

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01 March 2018

Whether it is due to extreme cold weather sweeping across the country from Siberia, or just the usual wintery conditions in the UK, most people will have experienced the disruption that comes with low temperatures. However, these conditions can also have an impact on an industrial scale.

In the wind power generation, aerospace and other industry sectors there is an emerging need to operate in the low temperatures and highly erosive environments of extreme weather conditions. Such conditions mean current materials either have a very short operational lifetime or demand such significant maintenance as to render many applications either very expensive to operate or in some cases non-viable.

Previously, the application of surface coatings to prevent icing and erosion met with limited success, leading industry to opt for de-icing by heating or chemical bleed. These techniques added weight, cost, and complexity, as well as creating additional maintenance requirements.

TWI is currently working on a Horizon 2020-funded collaborative project to investigate the use of self-renewing, erosion resistant, anti-icing materials for use on composite structures.

The project EIROS, ‘Erosion and Ice Resistant cOmposites for Severe operating conditions’, seeks to employ cutting-edge technologies to combine novel additives with the bulk resin of fibre reinforced composites. The additives will enhance the mechanical properties of composite materials to provide increased erosion resistance and self-renewing anti-icing characteristics to aid operation in extreme environments. 

Among the industrial applications for this composite mix are wind turbine blades, the leading wing edges of aircraft, cryogenic tanks for astrospace use, and automotive facia.

By using nanoparticles as part of the composite mix, EIROS will provide a durable solution through a combination of dispersion and self-healing to give increased de-icing and erosion protection performance over an extended period.

To achieve this, the nanoparticles will be attached to two functional groups. The first group will see the particles dispersed through the composite structure to positively impact performance and other mechanical properties. The second group will act as a surfacing material to offer the desired, aerodynamic texture as well as enabling a consistent superhydrophobic low energy surface, offering enhanced erosion and anti-icing performance.

The implementation of EIROS will not only create employment and training opportunities, but will also reduce environmental impacts due to the light-weighting of structures and the subsequent reduction in CO2 emissions. As well as providing an estimated 650,000 jobs across the EU, EIROS should also see the following benefits:

• Wind Energy Sector – 5% efficiency improvement in cold climates (20% of EU capacity)
• Aerospace – enhance active de-ice systems, saving time and cost (up to €10 million per annum)
• Space Launch Vehicles – saving up to €2.5 million per launch for small launch vehicles
• Automotive – saving 7% weight, equivalent to 3.4 million barrels of crude oil if fitted to all vehicles. If fitted to just 5% of vehicles, this technology would still equate to saving 170,000 barrels of crude oil and the associated CO2.

Not only will the project reduce environmental costs and ensure improved cold weather operation in a variety of high value sectors, but should also help protect jobs in the aerospace, automotive and energy sectors by the requirement for highly skilled manufacturing labour to produce the material and the components. You can find out more about the EIROS Project on its dedicated website.

However, this is not the only extreme cold-weather solution that TWI is involved with, as the ICEMART project looks to create a durable ice-repellent coating material and process for the aerospace sectors.

Please contact us for more information.

EIROS Project
TWI functionalised nano-additives for improving ice repellancy and erosion resistance

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