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4. May 2021 | Coatings Technologies

Lufthansa and BASF roll out sharkskin technology

A novel surface technology from Lufthansa Technik and BASF is expected to improve fuel efficiency and thus help to achieve sustainability goals.
A surface film modeled on the fine structure of shark skin is to be used on Lufthansa Cargo's entire freighter fleet.
Image source: RiccoStange - Pixabay (symbol image).

The lower the frictional resistance of an aircraft in the air, the lower its fuel consumption. Following nature's example, the aviation industry has long been conducting intensive research into reducing aerodynamic drag.

In a joint project, Lufthansa Technik and BASF say they have achieved a breakthrough.  A surface film modeled on the fine structure of shark skin is to be used on Lufthansa Cargo's entire freighter fleet from the beginning of 2022, making the aircraft more economical and lowering emissions.

Properties of sharkskin

The surface structure, which consists of ribs around 50 micrometers in size - known as riblets - mimics the properties of sharkskin and thus optimises aerodynamics at flow-related points on the aircraft. As a result, less fuel is needed overall.

For use on Lufthansa Cargo's ten Boeing 777F freighters, Lufthansa Technik expects this to reduce friction by more than one percent. According to the company, this means annual savings of around 3,700 tons of kerosene and almost 11,700 tons of CO2 emissions. Extrapolated to the entire Lufthansa Cargo fleet, the annual CO2 emissions saved correspond to 48 individual cargo flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai.

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