The Arctic’s most reflective, protective layer, called multiyear ice, has melted with shocking speed over the last few decades from global warming. We believe we can make a difference by slowing or stopping the melt. Years of field tests conducted by our research team indicate that our ice-aid materials significantly reduce the rate of melting. By increasing the reflectivity of ice with eco-friendly materials, we hope to restore the Earth’s natural heat shield in the Arctic, rebuild polar habitat, and help stabilize global climate. Like zinc oxide on a lifeguard’s nose, our materials reflect heat, keeping things cooler and reducing short- and long-term damage. This buys the world time to implement long-term measures to keep our planet habitable.
As engineers with decades of expertise, we have experimented with and refined commercially available materials and developed monitoring instruments that stand up to freezing temperatures. Our safe materials are essentially tiny glass spheres that eventually degrade into sand. Sprinkled on ice, they help it last longer in the spring and summer sun. The hollow spheres float, are breathable (so they don’t suppress evaporative cooling), and wettable.
Ice911’s technology for ice and snow preservation also works on water reservoirs and lakes. In numerous small-scale tests, we have found that our floating materials keep water cooler by a few degrees and reduce evaporation, increasing the amount of water available to sell and use. The cooler water might also help wildlife harmed by overheated water. This approach is far less expensive than building desalinization plants and expanding or adding reservoirs.
Raises reflectivity of ice to slow its melting rate and of reservoirs to reduce evaporative loss and keep water cooler
Our ice-aid materials have been tested in the California Sierra, Alaska, Minnesota, and Alberta. Testing is soon to continue in the Arctic
Our solution is ecologically respectful. The materials we use are essentially a form of sand and eventually degrade into it.
Materials can be removed or covered and their effect reversed if needed
"There is no question in my mind that Dr. Field's work is one of the half dozen or so most important research projects underway globally on mitigating climate change..."
- Armond Cohen, Executive Director, Clean Air Task Force
“In 2006, I started thinking there’s got to be a way to fix this,” recalls Ice911 founder Leslie Field, a PhD in electrical engineering who holds 50 US patents and lectures at Stanford University. Energetic and quick with ideas, Field turned to leading academic researchers to better understand the science concerning the crisis. She decided to take on the melting Arctic ice cap because she thought a relatively small, targeted approach—improving the reflectivity of ice with eco-friendly materials—could act as an enormous lever to tip the Arctic back into a source of cooling rather than heating.
In 2007, she started tinkering and taking lonely trips into the wintry Sierra Mountains to set out instrument buoys and materials on a little lake. Soon after she assembled an expert team, launched Ice911, and continued testing different materials and improving instruments. The team started yielding slower melt rates, attracted NASA interest, and gained respect at tech and sustainability contests like the Clean Tech Open and GSV Labs. In 2015, they survived a first bout of fieldwork above the Arctic Circle.
“Creating solutions brings me hope, which is far better than the alternatives of helplessness and despair," says Field. "I love this work because I think we have a real shot at making a global difference.”