Bird feathers can help fight icing

(ORDO NEWS) — For a long time, people could not understand how penguins contrive not to be covered with ice, swimming in Antarctic waters and in contact with frosty air.

Now scientists have figured it out, and the new discovery will help develop anti-icing materials to protect power lines and windmill blades.

Under the weight of freezing ice, power lines break every year, leaving thousands of people without light and heat.

Aircraft wings, windmill blades, communication towers – all this requires regular de- icing treatment , which not only takes a lot of time and money, but also pollutes the environment.

But now, scientists seem to have found a new way to deal with icing, “peeped” in subantarctic penguins ( Pygoscelis papua ), which swim in icy water and contact with frosty air, but their skins are not covered with a frozen crust.

It turned out that the secret lies in the microstructure and the relative position of their feathers, which are able to shed both water droplets and growing ice crystals.

Scientists have found that all the salt is in the hierarchical arrangement of large and small feathers and their jagged surfaces, which reduce the likelihood of ice crystals sticking. The researchers were able to replicate this structure as a thin grid of laser-cut steel wires.

Surprisingly, removing ice from such a grid was no more difficult than removing ice cubes from a special tray in our freezers.

Due to the grooves on the surface of the wire, microcracks appeared in the ice, which broke a single layer into separate pieces, shaken off at the slightest movement.

After testing the resulting material in a wind tunnel, the researchers found that on a surface covered with a mesh, ice grows 95 percent slower than on a conventional steel plate.

Bird feathers can help fight icing 2
In icy water, subantarctic penguins swim at speeds up to 36 kilometers per hour, and on land they don’t even think of freezing

It is unlikely that such a method of de-icing will be useful in civil aviation, because the wings of aircraft are not so easy to wrap with metal mesh, but it will certainly be able to solve the problem of ice formation on windmills, electric pylons and power lines.

It is also possible that in the future aircraft wings will be covered with a material that mimics the structure of penguin feathers, which will greatly facilitate winter travel for passengers who have to wait until the wings of the aircraft are treated with de-icer.

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