Friday, January 19, 2001
And he taketh away! Victor Petrenko, Professor at Dartmouth
College, has it in for ice. No more scraping in the driveway, defrosting the
freezer, or de-icing at the airport. No more eco-enemy anti-freeze!
Ice has a charged surface--the opposite of whatever it is stuck
to--due to a unique layer of mobile protons. Petrenko found that, because the
layer displays liquid-like properties, when he sends a small electrical current
across a conductive surface covered in ice, such as an airplane wing,
electrolysis frees the protons, transforming the thin layer into hydrogen and
oxygen. The trapped gasses then break through to the surface, shedding the ice
in the process. "The principal is similar to that of parallel plate capacitors,"
says Professor Petrenko.
The charge could theoretically also be applied to freezers to keep
ice from forming inside, on automobile windshields, or on electrical lines. New
England power companies like that idea since an ice storm in 1998 cost them
about $5 billion dollars. And I'm pretty happy about not waiting in the deicing
line at the airport. Commercial applications are years away, but prototypes are
very promising, according to Petrenko. His ideas are simple, but so novel that
he has been awarded a 2000 Discover Award for Technological Innovation in
To read more from the Dartmouth news release, http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/jan01/de-icer.html.