Ice Blaster Could Revolutionize Industrial Cleaning

R&D 100 Staff
April 25, 2018, 11:39 a.m.

Refineries, large marinas and industrial plants could soon forgo the costly and dangerous use of dry ice blasting for cleaning operations.

The IceStorm90—an industrial cleaning machine that uses crushed ice cubes as a blast media—can clean large industrial complexes using a tenth of the water required for pressure washers, and without needing to use dry ice, sand,  or any chemicals.

IceStorm90, developed by Canada-based Coulson Ice Blast, was a 2017 R&D 100 Award winner. Foster Coulson, the vice president of Coulson Ice Blast, explained in an interview with R&D Magazine that IceStorm90 is an environmentally-friendly option for large manufacturers that will also save them a substantial amount of money.

“With a technology like this, it really does change the way we clean the world,” Coulson said. “There is so much water consumed worldwide cleaning with water. If we can use a fraction of that then it is worth pushing extremely hard to innovate it quicker.”

Pressure washing alternatives like sandblasting, walnut shell blasting, soda blasting or using any other type of abrasive blasting means leaving behind a pile of waste media that needs to be cleaned up, while dry ice comes with high media costs and safety concerns, said Coulson. The CO2 in dry ice is toxic and can cause asphyxiation even at relatively low percentage levels of air.

IceStorm 90 is ideal for situations where high water usage or high levels of airborne or environmental contamination is unacceptable. This includes cleaning in encloses spaces, hazardous material removal—such as lead paint or asbestos abatement—and cleaning near environmentally sensitive areas.

How it works

The machine uses all three physical phases of ice to its advantage during blasting—a solid phase that knocks off contaminants with maximum impulse and scrubs the surface, a liquid phase that dissolves and washes away ionic compounds and helps to suppress dust, and a vapor phase that evaporates, leaving behind minimal residue.

Most of the ice will melt on impact and become a mist, making the blasted off particulates damp and heavy, dragging them to the ground and leaving low levels of airborne contaminants, while also allowing for an easier clean up.

The machine weights about 400 pounds and is 40 inches long, 26 inches wide, and 45 inches tall.

The machine includes a hopper that holds approximately 90 pounds of ice cubes or ice blocks, a crusher mechanisms that breaks the ice into smaller particles, a rotary feeder that transfers the ice from atmospheric pressure into the high pressure airstream, a high pressure air hose system that conveys the ice, and a nozzle that accelerates the air and the ice to high speed.

According to Coulson, IceStorm90 can be used for oil and gas industries to clean large refinery tanks, as well as by large marinas to blast the barnacles off boats and other water vessels.

The ice blaster can also be used to clean asphalt plants, tire injection molds, plastic injection molds and foam injection molds. Coulson said the IceStorm90 could be 80 percent cheaper in the molding industries than using dry ice to clean.

According to Coulson, the original technology was invented in 1991 with a grant from the Royal Canadian Navy for a machine that would sit in the back of a 20-foot container.

“It was very large and it ended up not working, it wasn’t designed appropriately and never really went anywhere,” Coulson said.

However, the project was revived when researchers looked at depainting a large plane, which sparked Coulson’s interest. He said he sought out information, but there was very little available.

“We designed a little bit of a smaller version, which was still very large and cumbersome and it worked very well removing the paint,” he said. “Knowing nothing about the cleaning industry, I started to dig around a little bit and realized that this technology really isn’t out there.

“When you look at innovation in the industrial cleaning industry it really stopped in the 60s after dry ice blasting was invented as the last major mainstream cleaning technology,” Coulson added.

Coulson said there are plans in the future for smaller versions of the IceStorm that could be used for smaller businesses or homeowners.

Apply for the 2018 R&D 100 Awards

IceStorm90, by Coulson Ice Blast, was a 2017 R&D 100 Award winner. The winners were announced at The R&D 100 Awards Gala held in Orlando, Florida on Nov. 17, 2017. See the full list of 2017 R&D 100 Award Winners here.

The R&D 100 Awards have served as the most prestigious innovation awards program for the past 56 years, honoring R&D pioneers and their revolutionary ideas in science and technology.

Submissions for the 2018 R&D 100 Awards are now being accepted. Any new technical product or process that was first available for purchase or licensing between January 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, is eligible for entry in the 2018 awards. Entries for the R&D 100 Awards can be entered under five general product categories— Mechanical Devices/ Materials, IT/Electrical, Analytical/Test, Process/Prototyping, and Software/Services.

The deadline is June 1, 2018.

To apply visit: