College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Three AerE professors investigate de-icing for NASA

Three aerospace engineering professors are combining their talents to investigate a widespread issue in the field of aerospace engineering. Ashraf Bastawros, Wei Hong, and Hui Hu will all contribute their expertise to a three-year NASA project which will explore mitigating icing on aircrafts.

NASA, seeking data on reducing ice adhesion, as well as improving ice shedding from aircraft surfaces, sent out a request for researchers looking to study the issue. Not only would the researchers need to be qualified in the micromechanics of fracture, multiscale metaphysics modeling, and experimental aerodynamics, but they would also need to use an icing wind tunnel, of which only a handful exist in the US. 

It just so happens that Iowa State has the only university-based multi-functional icing research tunnel in the entire country. Built in 2014, the icing research tunnel can simulate icing phenomena over a range of conditions for various anti-/de-icing applications.

Not only does the aerospace engineering department possess the right equipment to do the research, they also have the right people for the job.

Three Professors
Bastawros, Hong, and Hu

Hui Hu has researched icing physics and anti-icing/de-icing technology for NASA in the past, and will generate the ice using the wind tunnel. Wei Hong, with his expertise in multiscale multiphysics modeling, will develop predictive modeling capabilities for ice adhesion and assess the role of different surface topology and chemistry. Finally, the three professors will need to examine how the ice cracks as it sits on the wing, which is where Ashraf Bastawros will lend his knowledge of fracture mechanics and experimental micromechanics.

“That is the unique attribute of this proposal. It really transcends many fields which is why I liked to find Wei and Hui along with myself, Bastawros said.”

The trio will print a 3D model of the aircraft wing and let the ice build up on it inside the wind tunnel. From there, they can start to crack it under the same humidity and wind speed it would experience during flight.

“The whole idea is to determine how that ice is attaching to the aircraft critical control surfaces. We will study different coatings and surfaces that effect this interaction,” Bastawros said. “Now, can you characterize the different coatings with a number? Can you say, this coating is better than that coating and by how much?”

By experimenting with surface coatings, Bastawros, Hong, and Hu hope to find an effective way to repel the ice or to create a surface where the ice won’t adhere at all.

NASA will be interested in the field data that the researchers develop and hope to recreate any findings in the icing wind tunnel at the NASA Glenn Research Center.

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