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Improve aircraft fuel efficiency with ‘sharkskin’

By Gerald Ondrey |

Lufthansa Technik AG (Hamburg; www.lufthansa-technik.com) and BASF SE (Ludwigshafen, Germany; www.basf.com) have developed a surface film, tradenamed AeroSHARK, that mimics the fine structure of a shark’s skin for reducing friction. The technology is to be rolled out on Lufthansa Cargo AG’s (Frankfurt am Main, Germany; www.lufthansa-cargo.com) entire freighter fleet from the beginning of 2022, making the aircraft more economical and reducing emissions. The surface structure, consisting of riblets — tiny (around 50µm) grooves arranged longitudinally along the flow — that imitates the properties of sharkskin and therefore optimizes the aerodynamics on flow-related parts of the aircraft. This means that less fuel is needed overall. For Lufthansa Cargo’s Boeing 777F freighters, Lufthansa Technik estimates a drag reduction of more than 1%. For the entire fleet of ten aircraft, this translates to annual savings of around 3,700 tons of kerosene and just under 11,700 tons of CO2 emissions — the equivalent of 48 individual freight flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai. The riblet surface is an example of functional films being developed by the Coatings division of BASF (www.basf-coatings.com) in its Beyond Paint Solutions unit.…
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