Since the summer of 2011, Lufthansa Technik (Lufthansa’s engineering division) has been busy developing a potential enhancement to fuselage coatings that can yield fuel savings of at least 1% over current paint technologies in place. This translates into millions of Euro in fuel cost savings.
In collaboration with Airbus and the Fraunhofer Institute For Manufacturing Technology And Applied Materials Research (IFAM), Lufthansa has developed a potential aircraft coating that borrows from the “technology” found on the skin of sharks. Yes, the “JAWS” type.
As part of the first phase of research, they developed a way to manufacture a coating that resembles the structure of shark skin. Measured in micrometers, this new coating technology simulates the surface structure of shark skin in that it contains near-microscopic grooves that form riblets that in turn create a very efficient aerodynamic surface. In this preliminary research, it was found that this texture actually extends turbulence away from the surface and ultimately reduces resistance. This texture is then “imprinted” into the actual paint that is applied to the aircraft.
Moving to the second phase of this project, Lufthansa will outfit two of her Airbus A340′s with patches of this new coating technology on various parts of the fuselage and wings. Each patch will measure 10cm square and will be monitored through the summer of 2013. It is hoped that during this testing the new coating will exceed abrasion and wear tolerances found in current paint technologies. If the tests are successful, the next phase will include testing larger patches on a fuselage as well as developing a specialized wide scale application process that can be used when painting an aircraft.
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