Shark-Inspired Film Cuts Tons of Carbon Emissions

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How can studying biology can help reduce global carbon emissions? Meet AeroShark, it’s a thin film that replicates the teeth-like, aerodynamic scales on a shark’s skin (properly called “denticles“) to reduce the wind resistance on a large surface — like an airliner’s wing. It’s a small, but noticeable improvement in overall efficiency that could save even small airlines like Swiss (shown) thousands of tons of jet fuel and C02 emissions every year.

Developed by Lufthansa and BASF, AeroShark is an adhesive film that immediately reduces fuel consumption — and, as a consequence, carbon emissions — from just about any vehicle that has large, smooth surfaces. The idea is that millions of years of evolution led to sharks moving away from a perfectly smooth skin towards the denticle design that reduces hydrodynamic drag enough to give the sharks that have them an evolutionary advantage. It’s a successful adaptation that’s been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and if it works in under water, the AeroShark team figured it would work in the air, too.

AeroShark Denticles

The AeroShark film is easy to apply, and extremely durable against the weather and UV exposure it's going to need to deal with.
Image courtesy Lufthansa Technik.

Engineers working for the airline, Swiss, calculated that 950 square meters (10,225 sq ft) of AeroShark film applied to a Boeing 777, in specific patterns that are aligned with the airflow around the fuselage and engines, would be enough to immediately reduced drag and fuel consumption by fully 1.1 percent. That may not seem super impressive to lay people, but by sticking AeroShark on all 12 of its 777s, Swiss projects it will save a staggering 4,800 metric tons of jet fuel every year, and reduce its carbon emissions by 15,200 tons in the process!

Lufthansa has also announced plans to roll out the AeroShark film on its entire cargo freight fleet of Boeing 777s as well. That’s “just” 10 planes, but it’s enough to represent a savings of more than 3,700 tons of jet fuel and 11,700 tons of CO2 emissions, annually. What’s more, the AeroShark team believes those estimates are low, since the film might be slightly more effective on cargo planes that don’t have window openings to work around.

Lufthansa and BASF are working to develop and improve the AeroShark technology even further, and seem to think the product could eventually be improved to reduce fuel burn and emissions by up to 3 percent over existing aircraft. In 2019, the global airline industry used more than 95 billion gallons of fuel. A 3 percent savings would mean 2.85 billion fewer gallons of fuel burned — which, come on. That’s a huge reduction in carbon emissions!

Watch this video about AeroShark, below, then head on down to the comments section and let us know what you think of this biologically-inspired technical innovation in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Source | Images: BASF, via NewAtlas.

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