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Scientists Develop Frost Repellent Thanks in Part to Namib Desert Beetle


Drawing inspiration from the Namib Desert Beetle, a team of researchers developed a method for preventing frost from forming on a variety of surfaces.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the new study detailed the use of photolithography to prevent the spread of frost. They believe their method can be applied to a range of surfaces, primarily airplanes.

"I appreciate the irony of how an insect that lives in a hot, dry desert inspired us to make a discovery about frost," study lead author Jonathan Boreyko, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, said in a press release. "The main takeaway from the Desert Beetle is we can control where dew drops grow.

"We made a single dry zone around a piece of ice," he said. "Dew drops preferentially grow on the array of hydrophilic dots. When the dots are spaced far enough apart and one of the drops freezes into ice, the ice is no longer able to spread frost to the neighboring drops because they are too far away. Instead, the drops actually evaporate completely, creating a dry zone around the ice."

The researchers performed their work in collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"Keeping things dry requires huge energy expenditures," study co-author C. Patrick Collier, a research scientist at the lab's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, said in the release. "That's why we are paying more attention to ways to control water condensation and freezing. It could result in huge cost savings."

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