Cutting Carbon Emissions by Copying Nature

AeroSHARK is an adhesive film applied to the aircraft skin to reduce drag, cutting both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Jointly developed by Hamburg-headquartered Lufthansa Technik and German chemical giant BASF, AeroSHARK uses biomimetic technology to equip the aircraft skin with a barely perceptible ribbed texture of small protrusions, so-called riblets. Produced in easy-to-apply patches, the entire sharkskin application incorporates millions of prism-shaped riblets, each only 50 micrometers in height. When used to cover large parts of the fuselage as well as the engine nacelles, AeroSHARK can reduce an aircraft’s fuel-consumption by around one percent. For a single Boeing 777-300ER, this would already reduce CO2 emissions by roughly 1,200 metric tonnes annually.

AeroSHARK’s designers tailored and tested the material to offer the resilience to withstand all demands of the harsh operating environments found in aviation; aircraft skin is exposed to large temperature variations, wide pressure ranges and increased ultraviolet radiation at higher altitudes, to name just a few. A thorough flight test and certification campaign moreover made sure that the AeroSHARK modification has no detrimental effects on aircraft handling and safety. In December 2022, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) thus certified AeroSHARK for mass-application on Boeing 777F and 777-300ER aircraft, paving the way for the technology’s roll-out on the 777 fleets of launch customers Lufthansa Cargo and SWISS beginning January 2023. Once the more than 20 Boeing 777s at these two airlines have received their AeroSHARK modification, the Lufthansa Group's carbon footprint will be reduced by more than 25,000 metric tonnes per year. Applied to the global fleet of commercial aircraft, the film would offer a potential way of cutting emissions by nearly 6.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. To maximize its global savings potential, Lufthansa Technik also plans to soon offer AeroSHARK to all airlines operating 777F or 777-300ER aircraft. Moreover, the company plans to further develop this fascinating technology for even larger aircraft surfaces and many more commercial aircraft types.

AEROShark - Sharkskin - cc-by © Lufthansa
AEROShark - Sharkskin

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