Winter at Airports: Gallium Could Prevent Delays in the Future

by | 6. Dec 2023 - 11:07 | Technologies

American start-up uses high-tech heating strips to de-ice airplanes.

As happened recently in Munich, a sudden onset of winter can bring entire airports to a standstill. According to the aptly named Boston startup De-Ice, this could change in the future.

While tankers usually apply chemical mixtures of water and antifreeze, usually glycol, to the wings, De-Ice uses high-tech heating strips that interact with semiconductors inside the aircraft. The company relies on gallium nitride, which De-Ice claims is more efficient than commonly used silicon-based versions. The aircraft crew can activate the heating strips at the touch of a button. They generate high-frequency current distributed over the entire wing by the semiconductors. This heats the wings and melts the ice. This method makes de-icing processes faster and easier, which, according to De-Ice, prevents delays and flight cancellations and thus also reduces fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions. Conventional de-icing methods can take up to 30 minutes. It also eliminates the need for chemicals such as glycol.

First Airline Testing Heating Strips

According to De-Ice, the technology has proven itself in several tests, and the start-up has already won over the first major airline, Air Canada, Bloomberg reports. The Canadian airline is initially testing the new process on an Airbus A320 aircraft and plans to retrofit the rest of its fleet if the high-tech heating strips prove their worth. The airline has only one objection: the additional weight of the strips. They weigh about as much as two to three passengers. Whether the method will pay off and become established in the aviation industry remains to be seen.

Gallium could thus make a further contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The same is also hoped for in the chemical industry. Here, gallium could be used as a “super catalyst” to make the industry greener.

Photo: iStock/Jetlinerimages

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