I live in Vermont. We tend to have long winters and plenty of snow and freezing rain. As I do not always have garage parking, all of our cars are equipped with ice scrapers. Similar to many savvy Vermonters, when I park the car outside and precipitation is expected, I lift the windshield wipers off the windshield so that when I get back to the car, they will not be encased in ice and stuck to the windshield. Nonetheless, I still have to spend several minutes scraping the ice off the windshield and windows.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, perhaps in the future, I will be able to park my car outside in the winter and not have to scrape off the ice before driving. Researchers have developed a plethora of easily made rubber, ice-repellant coatings. While many have tried to develop materials and surfaces that inhibit ice formation, most have failed. Lubricants tend to wear off over time. While ice is less likely to form on etched glass, etching glass is quite expensive.
The researchers took advantage of their knowledge of how ice adheres to surfaces. Based upon the properties of stiffness and slipperiness they were able to develop coatings for multiple surfaces. While the coatings are solid, at the microscopic level, the oils embedded in the coatings are fluid. Essentially, the coatings are soft rubber with oil additives. Experiments have shown that metal and glass coated with the material are less prone to ice buildup and any ice that attaches is easily removed.
The coatings remained effective for months despite exposure to harsh winter conditions. Remarkably, the new coatings should be quite inexpensive as the ingredients are all commonly produced polymers. While it is not clear how effective the new coatings will be on all surfaces and for how long, I for one hope that they can soon be applied to glass so that I will no longer have to spend several minutes each winter day scraping ice off my car.