The company has also tested modified versions of its IceController to de-ice car windshields and airplane wings. A high-power windshield defroster heats the glass with up to 700 watts of power per meter, taking about eight minutes to bring the glass and ice interface to the melting point, Petrenko notes. Ice Engineering, he says, places an electrically conductive yet optically transparent film on the glass and then applies up to 20,000 kilowatts per meter to the film for up to four seconds, allowing the driver to clear the ice almost immediately.
Ice Engineering's technology could also be used to for in-flight de-icing of aircraft wings (glycol and other spray-on antifreeze chemicals are now used while the plane is on the ground), says Mark Hangen, the chief executive of ice machine manufacturer Simply Ice, LLC in Marquette, Mich., and a licensed pilot for 23 years. Today, commercial aircraft remove ice that accumulates on wings in-flight by redirecting hot air from the jet engines to the leading edge of the wings to keep them warm. "This consumes a lot of fuel," Hangen says. "They're looking for ways of getting rid of ice in-flight, without having to bleed air away from the engines, which causes them to use more fuel." Ice can also create maneuverability problems that could lead to crashes.
Hangen knows Ice Engineering's technology well—Simply Ice plans to use IceController to by 2010 upgrade its lineup of commercial ice-making machines, used by hotels and restaurants. Commercial ice machines generally do their thing by first pouring hot water into a mold and then using some form of heat (Simply Ice's units use hot gas) to loosen the ice so that it can be removed from the mold.
Hangen is counting on Ice Engineering's electro-pulse technology to more cost-effectively break up the cubes its ice makers create. "We've replaced that entire process with Dr. Petrenko's technology," he says. Whereas it can take several minutes for hot gas to get the ice out of the mold, a high-power electrical pulse takes about four seconds. A typical ice maker costs its owner $20,000 over 10 years for electricity and maintenance. The use of pulse power will conserve energy and require less maintenance, knocking that expenditure down by at least $5,000, he adds. Instead of needing 6.7 kilowatt-hours to produce 100 pounds of ice, the new machine will use 3.58 kilowatt-hours. (Hangen says he wants to drive energy consumption down to three kilowatt hours for 100 pounds, or 45 kilograms, of ice.)