Sharkskin technology

Recently Lufthansa Technik and BASF have succeeded in making a breakthrough in reducing aerodynamic drag on aircrafts as part of a joint project. “AeroSHARK”, a surface film that mimics the fine structure of a shark’s skin, is to be rolled out on Lufthansa Cargo’s entire freighter fleet from the beginning of 2022, making the aircraft more economical and reducing emissions.   

A special surface film optimizes aerodynamics at the flow-related parts of the aircraft. Image: Sonja Brüggemann

The surface structure, consisting of riblets measuring around 50 µm, 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 t of kerosene and just under 11,700 t of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of 48 individual freight flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai. In its cooperation with BASF, Lufthansa Technik is responsible for the material specification, approval by the aviation authorities and performance of aircraft modifications carried out as part of regular maintenance layovers. Lufthansa Technik and BASF intend to continue developing the new technology consistently to include additional aircraft types and even larger surfaces so that they can support airlines around the globe even more comprehensively in the future in reaching their sustainability goals. Initial model calculations show that use of sharkskin technology at its highest expansion level could reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 3%. 

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