From next year, Lufthansa Cargo will equip its entire cargo fleet with an artificial shark skin film The AeroSHARK technology, developed by BASF, mimics the skin structure of a shark, improving the aerodynamics and lowering the fuel consumption of the aircraft.
The lower the frictional resistance of an aircraft in the air, the lower the fuel consumption. For years, the aviation industry has been intensively researching ways to reduce aerodynamic drag.
Much of this research has focussed on the surface structure of shark skin, which is made up of so-called denticles: tiny V-shaped scales, that researchers discovered decrease drag and turbulence, enabling a shark to glide smoothly and effortlessly through water.
In a joint project developed by Lufthansa Technik and BASF, the companies have successfully created AeroSHARK, a surface film that mimics the shark skin structure. The surface of the AeroShark film consists of riblets measuring around 50 micrometers.
Lufthansa Technik and BASF first fitted almost the entire lower half of a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400's fuselage with 500 square meters of a biomimetic sharkskin surface and had this modification certified by EASA. This aircraft (registration D-ABTK) subsequently validated the savings potential of the technology on scheduled long-haul services over more than 1,500 flight hours. This provided unequivocal proof that emissions were reduced by around 0.8% thanks to the sharkskin modification.
The AeroShark film will be rolled out on Lufthansa Cargo’s entire Boeing 777F freighter fleet from the beginning of 2022.
The savings for the Boeing 777F are estimated to be even higher, because the application areas are even larger in this case, among others, due to the absence of window rows on a freighter, among other reasons. Lufthansa Technik estimates a drag reduction of more than one percent. The savings are validated using software for fuel consumption analyses developed by Lufthansa Technik, which allows the effectiveness of a wide variety of different aircraft modifications to be demonstrated reliably based on comprehensive data.
For the entire fleet of ten aircraft, this translates to annual savings of around 3,700 tons of kerosene and just under 11,700 tons of CO2 emissions - the equivalent of 48 individual freight flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai.
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 the use of sharkskin technology at its highest expansion level could reduce CO2 emissions by as much as three percent.