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Lufthansa Technik AG
Just by using the sharkskin technology, the global fleet of long-haul aircraft could save close to five million tons of kerosene per year. And we are well past proof of concept! AeroSHARK is a durable bionic film that successfully mimics the skin of sharks and optimizes the airflow thus enabling significant fuel savings.
Together with the leading global chemicals and coatings manufacturer BASF, we developed a functional biomimetic technology: a film with a barely perceptible ribbed texture of small protrusions – riblets. Sized in patches for easy and targeted application, the film has millions of these prism-shaped riblets, each one 50 micrometers high. Applied to the aircraft in a specific manner and aligned with the airflow, the riblets achieve efficiency gains, by reduced friction, similar to those of their counterparts in nature, and can also improve lift if attached on wings.
The riblet film is easy to apply, even on large commercial aircraft - up to 500 m2 on a Boeing 747-400's lower fuselage and belly fairing. It is extremely resilient, withstands large temperature shifts, pressure differentials and the ultra violet radiation on high flight levels.
AeroSHARK is to be rolled out on Lufthansa Cargo's entire Boeing 777F freighter fleet from the beginning of 2022, making the aircraft more economical and reducing emissions. Here we estimate a drag reduction of more than one percent. 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, which is the equivalent of 48 individual freight flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai.
By late November 2019, it was clear that the riblet film jointly developed with BASF's Coatings Division was delivering on its promise under real-life operating conditions, too. AVIATAR's Fuel Analytics solution was used to sense any variations in fuel consumption pre and post modification down to 0.8%, accurately accounting for externalities such as weather conditions, flight profile and even minor impacts on the fuselage. Initial results for the 747-400 with a lower fuselage modification showed a 0.8% friction reduction from the effect of AeroSHARK which translates into annual fuel savings of just about 300 metric tons of kerosene. This means a reduction in C02 emissions of more than 900 metric tons per year.
Our sharkskin riblet film was tested in laboratory and real flight conditions: