Swiss reduces emissions with “sharkskin” technology

Swiss is to become the first passenger airline in the world to take advantage of a new aircraft skin technology developed by Lufthansa Technik and BASF to further reduce the carbon dioxide emissions and the fuel consumption of its flight operations.

All twelve of the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will successively have the innovative riblet film. Image source: Swiss.

Swiss International Air Lines (Swiss) takes advantage of the aircraft skin technology by applying the innovative riblet film to its Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft fleet. According to the comapny, its investment in this new technology will enable Swiss to substantially reduce its Boeing 777 fleet’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption. The new biomimetic film has been jointly developed by Lufthansa Technik and BASF. The film features millions of ‘riblets’ – small protrusions just 50 micrometres high – which replicate the highly hydrodynamic skin of sharks, and thus reduces an aircraft’s aerodynamic drag wherever it is applied.

Annual CO2 emission savings of up to 15,200 tonnes

By applying a total of 950 square metres of the riblet film to the fuselage and engine nacelle surfaces of a Boeing 777, fuel savings of some 1.1 per cent can be achieved. This will reduce its annual fuel consumption by over 4,800 tonnes and the total annual carbon dioxide emissions of the Swiss Boeing 777 fleet by up to 15,200 tonnes – the amount emitted respectively by some 87 long-haul flights from Zurich to Mumbai.

Swiss has also supported Lufthansa Technik and BASF in their development of the film for the Boeing 777. Back in summer 2021, the aerodynamic performance of a Boeing 777 wing was precisely monitored throughout a scheduled Zurich-San Francisco flight. The data collected have enabled Lufthansa Technik to devise high-precision 3D airflow simulation models which will be used in the near future to develop the riblet film for additional application to the Boeing 777’s wings, to tap further fuel and emission savings potential.

Swiss has set itself the objectives of halving its net CO2 emissions from their 2019 levels by 2030 and of making its business and operations carbon-neutral by 2050.

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