Are superhydrophobic surfaces best for icephobicity?

Langmuir. 2011 Mar 15;27(6):3059-66. doi: 10.1021/la104762g. Epub 2011 Feb 14.


Ice formation can have catastrophic consequences for human activity on the ground and in the air. Here we investigate water freezing delays on untreated and coated surfaces ranging from hydrophilic to superhydrophobic and use these delays to evaluate icephobicity. Supercooled water microdroplets are inkjet-deposited and coalesce until spontaneous freezing of the accumulated mass occurs. Surfaces with nanometer-scale roughness and higher wettability display unexpectedly long freezing delays, at least 1 order of magnitude longer than typical superhydrophobic surfaces with larger hierarchical roughness and low wettability. Directly related to the main focus on heterogeneous nucleation and freezing delay of supercooled water droplets, the observed ensuing crystallization process consisted of two distinct phases: one very rapid recalescent partial solidification phase and a subsequent slower phase. Observations of the droplet collision process employed for the continuous liquid mass accumulation up to the point of ice formation reveal a previously unseen atmospheric-pressure, subfreezing-temperature regime for liquid-on-liquid bounce. On the basis of the entropy reduction of water near a solid surface, we formulate a modification to the classical heterogeneous nucleation theory, which predicts the observed freezing delay trends. Our results bring to question recent emphasis on super water-repellent surface formulations for ice formation retardation and suggest that anti-icing design must optimize the competing influences of both wettability and roughness.