Do Androids Dream of Electric Heat?
Ice and frost growth are perennial problems for heating and cooling systems. IceNein® changes the game for HVAC systems by keeping cold surfaces dry in all environments. Cooling equipment with IceNein® operates “frost free” for much longer; saving energy, increasing operational uptime, and boosting total performance per dollar spent (upfront and ongoing).
The Ice Problem
Often an innocuous — even beautiful — crust that grows over exposed surfaces, frost has massive negative economic and safety impacts. Frost and ice form on cold surfaces as moisture in the air condenses and freezes into a layer that changes aerodynamics and makes it very difficult to transfer heat. Airplanes crash when wings ice over, windmills send chunks of ice flying miles away, and frosted heat exchangers shut down critical heating and cooling systems.
Frost on critical heat transfer surfaces is reported to cost greater than $10 billion dollars in economic losses annually. As one example, increased operating costs hit industrial cooling owners particularly hard: cold storage and blast freezing operators can spend upwards of $2 million dollars a year per facility on electricity for cooling and experience significant losses when equipment downtime reduces capacity and eliminates revenue opportunities.
In addition to the economic impact, the frost problem is a major roadblock on the path to electrification. Globally, heating systems account for 40% of energy-related CO2 emission and the majority of these systems combust natural gas to generate heat — we must make progress towards high efficiency, electrified space heating to successfully decarbonize the built environment. Heat pumps systems can be a critical tool to do this: known as “reversible air conditioners”, they are able to both heat and cool spaces and run entirely on electricity. Unfortunately, their ability to operate in cooler climates is severely impacted by frosting, significantly limiting where they can be deployed. By solving the frost problem, we can leverage heat pumps to accelerate electrification and move on from fossil fuels.
IceNein® saves heat pumps
Built on Nelumbo’s materials Platform, IceNein® is a long term durable surface treatment applied to components inside frost-impacted systems like heat pumps and refrigerators. The treatment creates a chemically functionalized structure that actively repels water through Droplet (R)ejection® — water droplets literally jump off the surface, making it very difficult to frost and ice to form. These structures actively remove water to help the heat exchanger surface stay frost free longer, help remove frost faster during defrost, and remove frost more completely to restore performance. Active water removal also supports IceNein®’s longevity, maintaining performance over thousands of cycles. This reduces the ballooning cost of HVAC systems by enabling a significantly more cost-efficient system and component design.
Nelumbo’s patented process for IceNein® application is uniquely suitable for treating high surface area components with complex geometries such as heat exchanger components. IceNein® application is a reactive dip process that chemically grows a surface nano-structure based on a reaction between the substrate and the dip bath resulting in a tightly bound crystalline ceramic. The process has been perfected with aluminum alloys, successfully transferred to other substrates like stainless steel, carbon steel, copper alloys, titanium alloys, nickel alloys, and can expand to a variety of metallic and non-metallic substrates. With IceNein®, HVAC systems can be built smaller and run more efficiently — lowering capital and operational costs for manufacturers and consumers.
These advances can accelerate adoption of heat pumps to electrify heating in cold climates, improve operating efficiency of energy intensive industrial refrigeration systems, and even increase range in electric vehicles. Across these applications, IceNein® has the potential to prevent many gigatons of future carbon emissions. The future is electric and we will be ever more reliant on our ability to efficiently heat and cool the built environment. With IceNein®, we can say NO to the limitations imposed by ice and usher in an electrified future.