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MIT researchers develop protective coating to prevent frost build up on glass


Frosty windows could soon be a thing of the past (courtesy: Patrick Kelly)
Frosty windows could soon be a thing of the past (courtesy: Patrick Kelly)

Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer

March 5, 2013 — Glass that fogs over and frosts in the cold may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The newly-developed coating is able to absorb water without freezing
The newly-developed coating is able to absorb water without freezing

Most of us have had to deal with glasses that fog over in the cold, or windows that develop a film of ice during the winter.

Scientists have been working to create coatings that can combat the frost, but until recently, there was no way to effectively test the products in real-world conditions.

Enter MIT.

Researchers from the university have developed not only a reliable testing method, but a promising solution as well.

The new coating appears to "maintain good optical properties without distortion," according to a statement on MIT's website. It's able to absorb a large amount of water without freezing and it contains traits that allow the material to simultaneously repel and attract water.

Scientists call the hybrid properties "Zwitter wettability."

According to lead author Michael Rubner, "Zwitter" is a German word for "hybrid", used to describe a material that carries opposing properties. Rubner says the coating is relatively easy and cheap to develop. “These are common polymers,” Rubner said of the products used to create the coating in a statement. “They’re well-known and cheap, but brought together in a unique way.”

To test the coating, the team kept the material at -20°C for an hour, and then exposed it to a humid environment. The glass was then photographed in controlled conditions. 

“We developed a protocol … [that] allows us to detect how good one coating is in comparison with another,” Rubner says.

The findings were recently published in the journal ACS Nano.


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