BASF and Lufthansa Technik have developed a new product designed to imitate sharkskin and reduce aerodynamic drag that mimics nature. Known as AeroSHARK, the surface film will be rolled out on Lufthansa Cargo’s freighter fleet from the beginning of 2022, making the aircraft more economical and reducing emissions.
According to BASF, AeroSHARK has a surface structure consisting of 50-micrometer riblets that imitates the properties of sharkskin, which optimises the aerodynamics on flow-related parts of the aircraft. For Lufthansa Cargo’s Boeing 777F freighters, Lufthansa Technik estimates drag will be reduced by more than one per cent, which will lead to less fuel consumed. For the fleet of 10 aircraft, the companies expect annual savings of around 3700 tons of kerosene and just under 11,700 tons of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of 48 freight flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai.
At the end of 2019, Lufthansa Technik and BASF fitted almost the entire lower half of a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400’s fuselage with 500 square meters of sharkskin surface to validate the savings potential of the technology on scheduled long-haul services. The two companies spent 1500 flight hours on the validation process.
The companies said they were able to verify that the sharkskin modification reduced emissions by around 0.8 per cent. The savings for the Boeing 777F are estimated to be higher because the application areas are larger due to the absence of window rows on a freighter, among other reasons.
According to BASF, the model calculations show the use of sharkskin technology at its highest expansion level could reduce CO2 emissions by three per cent.
The savings were validated using software developed by Lufthansa Technik, which allows the effectiveness of a wide variety of different aircraft modifications to be demonstrated reliably based on comprehensive data.
Lufthansa Technik and BASF intend to continue developing the technology to include additional aircraft types and larger surfaces, hoping to support airlines around the world in reaching their sustainability goals.
Dr Markus Kamieth, Member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF, said the aviation industry must make further progress in preventing climate change despite “high energy requirements”.
“By collaborating closely and successfully combining our know-how in surface design and aerodynamics, we have now succeeded in taking a major step forward. This is an excellent example of sustainability in practice, achieved through partnership-based collaboration and innovative technologies,” he said.
Christina Foerster, Member of the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa with responsibility for sustainability, said the sharkskin technology shows what highly innovative partners can achieve collectively for the environment.
“This will help us to achieve our goal of climate neutrality by 2050,” she added.