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Henna Niemelä: New efficient icephobic surface is inspired by a tropical plant

Tampere University
LocationKorkeakoulunkatu 1, Tampere
Hervanta campus, Festia, auditorium Pieni Sali FA032
Date10.11.2023 10.00–14.00
Entrance feeFree of charge
In her doctoral dissertation, MSc Henna Niemelä examined slippery lubricant infused porous surfaces, “SLIPS”. These nature-inspired slippery surfaces possess extremely low ice adhesion strength, are transparent and could be used in icephobic applications where accumulation of ice endangers operations or safety. The functionality of these coatings is based on pairing a specific porous solid material with a lubricating liquid.

“The inspiration of SLIPS comes from a carnivorous pitcher plant living in tropical rainforests. It is quite fascinating that these kinds of surfaces can be utilized in cold climates as well”, Henna Niemelä says.

Accumulation of ice is a well-known nuisance for anyone living or operating in cold climates. Removing the ice by mechanical or chemical ways consumes time and energy. Utilising a passive approach, slippery coatings could shed accumulated ice off without wasting precious resources.

Many industries and operators would be thrilled if there were no need to scrape frosty windshields, spray de-icing solutions, or heat the surface to get rid of accumulated ice. In the future this might be reality as the novel coating designs can combine many important features, such as optical transparency, water-repellence, and extremely low ice adhesion strength.

“In general, there are plenty of icephobic end-use applications. However, the final application should drive the surface design development for most optimal combination of properties,” Niemelä estimates.  

Modern coating designs must be functional to ensure safe operations but also sustainability aspects are driving the development processes. Regulations for recycling, reusing, and reducing are placing new challenges for scientists. SLIPS can be comprised from recyclable materials and since they lock the lubricating liquid into the pores of a solid material, the surfaces can withstand multiple icing or wetting events. The extremely low ice adhesion strength of the SLIPS endures multiple ice accumulation and detachment cycles.

Henna Niemelä has examined slippery surfaces at Tampere University and at Research Institutes of Sweden in Stockholm. She currently works in UPM Raflatac as a Technology Development Manager.

“The interfacial phenomena of adhesion and debonding are universal challenges in many industries. Understanding the possibilities and limitations of material pairing leads to novel sustainable coating innovations. Modern coating technologies must adjust to new regulations and scout greener options in raw material selections and in manufacturing processes. More cross-operational cooperation is needed in the coating development in the future,” she concludes.

Public defence on Friday 10 November

The doctoral dissertation of MSc. Henna Niemelä in the field of Materials Science titled Icephobic Properties of Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surfaces will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences at Tampere University on Friday 10th of November 2023 at Tampere University Hervanta campus, Festia, Pieni Sali FA032 (Korkeakoulunkatu 1, Tampere). The Opponents will be Dr. Caroline Laforte from Canada and Dr. Vittorio Vercillo from Italy. The Custos will be Professor Emeritus Petri Vuoristo from Tampere University.

The doctoral dissertation is available online.