Deicing airplanes currently requires the application of chemicals, in addition to other methods that involve heat. The process is resource-intensive: the planes can idle for lengthy periods while waiting for treatment, the chemicals are applied using a specially equipped truck and contained and collected for recycling, and the whole process needs to be repeated again and again. What if the process could be built into the airplanes themselves?


Saab has applied for a patent to do just that. The company plans to incorporate a layer of lightweight graphene into the surface of airplanes, perhaps using a resin that would conduct a small electrical current to heat areas that need deicing. The solution would preserve aerodynamics and reduce resource use considerably. It’s one of many potential uses of graphene in the aviation industry that could reduce the overall weight of planes.

Materials innovations are making it possible to place more functions right into an existing product, doing away with the need for other products and reducing resource use. What other examples have you seen?