Ultrafast self-healing and highly transparent coating with mechanically durable icephobicity
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Excessive ice accretion on infrastructures can lead to severe damage and dysfunction. In the context of combating the build-up of unwanted icing and at the same time maintaining sunlight permeation, for instance on solar panels, windows and sensors, mechanically durable and transparent icephobic coatings are highly desired. Herein, we designed and fabricated an icephobic coating possessing for the first time combined properties of ultrafast self-healing and outperforming transparency. Our coating can restore more than 80% of the ultimate tensile strength within 45 min of healing at room temperature after introducing a cut. By a synergy of both experiments and atomistic simulations, we established the atomistic mechanism for ultrafast self-healing, i.e. the perfect balance between polymer chain flexibility and concentration of hydrogen bonding pairs. Equipped with such ultrafast self-healing property, the coating showed a stable ice adhesion strength of 52.2 ± 8.9 kPa after 20 icing/deicing cycles, and 48.2 ± 4.6 kPa after healing from mechanical damage, exhibiting exceptional robustness for anti-icing applications that required high mechanical endurance. Importantly, the coating on glass showed a light transmittance of 89.1% in the visible region, which is remarkably close to bare glass (91.9%). Moreover, the coating was recyclable due to the dissociable crosslinks, providing a sustainable aspect of the material missing in existing state-of-the-art icephobic coatings. This coating combines the properties of icephobicity, mechanical durability (via self-healing), transparency and recyclability, and thus enlightens the design of multifunctional materials for meeting complex environmental requirements encountered in the field of anti-icing.