Forget Scraping Your Windshield in Winter -- Just Flip a Switch

Posted: February 10, 2009

It's been a rough winter so far at U.S. News' office in D.C. We've spent enough time scraping ice from the car, our hands raw from the freezing cold, or driving cautiously, sharing the road with people who cleared their windshields halfway and are driving virtually blind.

That's why we were heartened to see this piece of news from Scientific American: "a group of researchers has developed technology designed to electronically zap ice off surfaces within in seconds. Unlike conventional windshield defrosters that rely on gradual warming to liquefy snow and ice, the IceController-created by Ice Engineering, LLC, in Lebanon, N.H.-delivers a swift (less than a second in some cases) jolt of high-power electricity that immediately melts ice at its interface with an object's surface. Once the bond between the ice and surface is broken, the ice slides away."

"The IceController," SciAm explains, "can be connected to any device or structure that can be coated with ice and uses electrodes or a thin film of stainless steel, copper or aluminum foil placed on the surface to deliver a jolt of electricity whenever it senses ice buildup."

The list of possible uses is long: Airplane wings, bridge cables, power lines - nearly any solid surface where ice buildup can create a hazard.

But the one we're most looking forward to is automotive. Autoblog explains, "Ice Engineering is currently testing a thin, transparent, electrically conductive film applied to the windshield. With about four seconds of high voltage energy, the ice loses its bond with the windshield, making clean-up a snap. The 20,000-kilowatt surge is actually a big energy-saver versus the eight minutes it takes the defroster to perform the same task. Eliminate the need to start your car and let it sit in the driveway, and you're saving several minutes of wasted fuel, while also cutting your CO2 footprint."

You're also saving several minutes spent out in the freezing cold before we've finished our morning coffee and making life a lot easier on elderly or ill neighbors who have a hard time doing the same. There is no timetable on when the technology might reach new cars.

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