Lufthansa Technik and BASF have partnered to create a surface film that mimics the fine structure of a shark’s skin – and significantly reduces fuel consumption and emissions.

    The technology, called ‘AeroSHARK’, reduces aerodynamic drag to achieve the savings. It will be rolled out on Lufthansa Cargo’s entire freighter fleet from the beginning of 2022.

    The surface structure consists of riblets measuring around 50 micrometers and imitates the properties of sharkskin, optimising the aerodynamics on flow-related parts of the aircraft (see video below).

    For Lufthansa Cargo’s 777F freighters, Lufthansa Technik estimates a drag reduction of more than one per cent. 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, which is the equivalent of 48 individual freight flights from Frankfurt to Shanghai.

    Lufthansa Technik is responsible for material specification, approval by aviation authorities and performance of aircraft modifications carried out as part of regular maintenance layovers. The company will obtain a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the 777F from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which is required for operation.

    Sharkskin 2

    “Responsibility for the environment and society is a key strategic topic for us,” said Deutsche Lufthansa’s Christina Foerster, the member of the company’s executive board with responsibility for sustainability. “We have always played a leading role in introducing environmentally friendly technologies. The new sharkskin technology for aircraft shows what strong and highly innovative partners can achieve collectively for the environment. This will help us to achieve our goal of climate neutrality by 2050.”

    BASF’s Coatings division develops innovative, functional films in its Beyond Paint Solutions unit – such as the riblet surfaces. The company noted that key criteria for use in aviation operation include simple application and handling as well as ease-of-repair, for which a custom concept has been developed.

    BASF’s Dr. Markus Kamieth, a member of the board of executive directors, commented: “The aviation industry is facing similar challenges to the chemical industry: ongoing progress must be made with climate protection 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.”

    Sharkskin 3

    Lufthansa Cargo’s chief executive officer Dorothea von Boxberg said: “We are proud that we will now be able to operate our entire freighter fleet even more efficiently in the future thanks to sharkskin technology and reduce the carbon footprint of our modern fleet further. The investments we have made in rolling out AeroSHARK at Lufthansa Cargo consciously reaffirm our commitment to the United Nation’s sustainable development goal on climate action.”