Award winning idea can revolutionize aerospace industry

Today ice is a barrier that causes delays and increased costs for both personal and commercial air traffic. A research idea from the University of Bergen aims to increase operations under icing conditions and to greatly reduce the need for anti-icing and deicing measures of aircrafts. The idea has a high degree of innovation and a significant potential. This is why it is appointed winner of the Sparebanken Vest and Bergen Teknologioverføring Idea Competition 2017. The prize is worth 500 000 NOK.

Many of us have experienced that the flight is delayed because the aircraft must be deiced or anti-iced prior to departure. The aircrafts body must be showered with Glycol based chemicals before it is allowed to take off. The two processes are time-consuming and they are often the reason for delays on cold days. The aerospace industry worldwide spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year for anti-icing and deicing measures, but the chemicals used create challenges.

The chemicals are sprayed on the aircraft and if applied incorrectly, they can cause damage to engines and other sensitive parts. Moreover, the chemical Glycol is toxic and has a significant negative impact on the environment. Nevertheless, using Glycol for anti-icing and deicing purposes, is still seen as one of the best ways to prevent vital technical equipment from failing due to ice formation.

Coating of graphene

A researcher from the University of Bergen (UiB) may now have found a solution to these challenges. For the last years, Dr. Naureen Akhtar from the Department of Physics and Technology have been focusing her research on solving the problem of icing on vital equipment and machinery.

– Together with Professor Bodil Holst in the Nanophysics group at UiB, I have developed a transparent, lightweight and environmentally safe coating that prevents ice formation and fogging. Being graphene based, the coating weighs close to nothing and is extremely thin, says Dr. Naureen Akhtar.

Graphene is a material with similar properties and composition as graphite, but graphene consists of only one layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. Despite the fact that graphene is an extremely thin material, researchers at the University of Manchester have stated that it is the strongest material known to humanity.

– There are several ways our innovative coating can benefit society. One way is that it can be applied to search and rescue aircrafts to enable operations under icing conditions. Today, these aircrafts are reliant on good weather to operate, and can under icing conditions be prevented from reaching an emergency in time. In worst cases, this can be the difference between life and death. Additionally, being transparent the coating can improve the performance of optical sensors used to monitor vital and potentially life-threatening systems. Finally, it will dramatically reduce the use of glycol, which will have a direct positive environmental impact, Dr. Akhar continues.

Based on this innovative research, Dr. Naureen Akhtar wins Sparebanken Vest and Bergen Teknologioverføring Idea Competition for 2017 and is awarded 500 000 NOK. The award was handed out by the Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry, Monica Mæland, at Bergen Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual conference, Friday 17th of November.

– It is an honour to win such a distinguished prize. The competition in the Idea Competition is very strong. I have an innovative idea that I believe in, and it is nice to see that the jury have confidence in its potential. To win is very positive for me personally and for the project. The prizemoney will help us towards the implementation of the technology, says Dr. Akhtar.

High degree of innovation

The Idea Competition received 24 contributions from the research institutions in Bergen. The jury finds it likely that the idea presented will solve societal challenges related to security in the air and shipping industry. It will save both the Norwegian and the international community great expenses and represent a significant environmental benefit. The jury writes:

“The winner of the Idea Competition 2017 has presented a convincing plan for the production of a unique carbon-based coating with properties that prevent icing on machines and instruments. The idea has a high degree of innovation. Responses from relevant industrial users and partners are solely positive. The technology that is being developed has a number of applications in the aerospace industry, shipbuilding, meteorology, automotive industry and activities in arctic regions.”

BTO congratulates Dr. Naureen Akhtar and her team!

Members of the jury:

  • Stener Kvinnsland, Chairman of the Jury
  • Dag Skansen, Entrepreneur and Investor
  • Olav Hovland, Sparebanken Vest
  • Anne Øvrebø, Innovation Norway
  • Jens Andreas Reigstad, Bergen Teknologioverføring (Secretary of the jury)

Background of the competition

Sparebanken Vest and Bergen Teknologioverføring has conducted seven Idea Competitions since 2010. The purpose of the competition is to stimulate commercialization of research results, to enlighten the research and commercializing environment, and to generate attention for the need of innovation and research.

Download press release in Norwegian here.