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Icing Research

NASA’s icing research involves the development of tools and methods for evaluating and simulating the growth of ice on current and future aircraft surfaces or inside the engines and the effects that ice may have on the behavior of aircraft in flight.

At NASA Glenn Research Center, “We Freeze to Please”.

Large-Scale Swept Wing Model in the NASA Glenn Icing Research Tunnel
Ice accreted on a Large-Scale Swept Wing Model in the NASA Icing Research Tunnel

Our icing research teams utilize a refrigerated wind tunnel, an engine test cell, and small scale laboratories to create icing conditions for models and airfoils on the ground, as well as flying laboratories to study aircraft icing in the sky. They have also developed software tools to help predict ice growth and the effects of ice contamination on aircraft or inside of engines. The icing research conducted at NASA leads to developed and validated simulation methods, both computational and experimental, suitable for use as both certification and design tools when evaluating aircraft systems for operation in icing conditions. We are challenged to look forward to new technologies being developed and consider what potential issues may arise related to flight into icing.

An aircraft from 1945 in the Icing Research Tunnel
Ice on aircraft from 1945 in the Icing Research Tunnel

NASA began icing testing in 1944 with the completion of its Icing Research Tunnel – the longest running and second largest icing facility in the world. Most ice protection technologies in use today were largely developed at this facility. We have provided information over the years that informed regulatory agencies on the range of icing conditions – via flight, ground, engineering tools, and databases, most recently for Supercooled Large Droplets (SLD) and High Ice Water Content (HIWC). As such, NASA leads international research on aircraft and engine icing, contributing to an increase in aircraft safety.

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