Water drops on leaves inspire wind turbine coatings

What you’re looking at above is water bouncing off a piece of superhydrophobic nano-material. It does this because, as GE’s Advanced Technology Program Leader for Nanotechnology, Margaret Blohm, explained to us, the surface structure of the material is such that the when the water droplet hits it, the surface tension isn’t disrupted and it bounces, rather than splats. Via:treehugger

The inspiration for this came originally from observations of lotus leaves which exhibit similar characteristics. Nasturtium leaves (pictured at top) behave in the same way. In nature this serves, essentially, to enhance photosynthesis as dirt has a harder time collecting on the leaves — it just gets continually washed off by dew and rainwater.

But for wind turbines — and this is what GE will be testing shortly using Southwest Windpower’s residential-scale wind turbines — the idea is to use these superhydrophobic coatings to reduce icing and improve efficiency. If the ice never really has a chance to form on the blade as its rotating, then it never has a chance to increase drag on the blade.

This obviously also has potential application in aircraft engines and wings: As Joe Vinciquerra says in the GRC Blog,


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