By Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
Lufthansa Installs Film Technology to Improve Aircraft Efficiency, Emissions
Lufthansa has become the first aviation group in the world to equip its fleet aircraft with innovative AeroSHARK surface technology from Lufthansa Technik and BASF, a world leader in chemicals and coatings, in order to improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.
AeroSHARK is a bionic film that mimics the fine structure of shark skin, managing to optimize airflow in contact with the aircraft structure, resulting in significant savings in fuel and carbon emissions. According to Lufthansa and BASF material engineers and scientist, if the entire long-range fleet used this technology, it could save nearly five million tons of kerosene per year.
Following extensive testing and a certification process, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) granted Lufthansa Technik a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the mass application of this innovative technology on two Boeing 777 models. Lufthansa has already a Boeing 777 equipped with AeroSHARK (registered HB-JNH) in service for the Lufthansa Group airline Swiss since last October, having completed the flight test program for certification. In the near future, more than 20 aircraft in the fleet will receive AeroSHARK technology very soon: all twelve of SWISS’s long-haul B777-300ER aircraft and Lufthansa Cargo’s current fleet of eleven Boeing 777F freighters.
According to Lufthansa’s website, the AeroSHARK film consists of millions of ribs about 50 micrometers across, known as “riblets”. They mimic the properties of sharkskin and thus optimize aerodynamics at flow-relevant points on the aircraft, such as the fuselage or engine nacelles. This special skin covers about 950 square meters of the outer skin of a Boeing 777-300ER and annual savings of about 400 tons of kerosene, or more than 1,200 tons of CO₂, can be achieved.
The riblet film is easy to apply, even on large commercial aircraft: up to 500 m2 on the lower fuselage and belly fairing of a Boeing 747-400. It is extremely durable and withstands the large temperature changes, pressure differentials and ultraviolet radiation of high flight levels.
“We are the first aviation group in the world to use this new technology,” said Christina Foerster, Lufthansa Group Executive Committee member responsible for brand and sustainability. “By covering more than 20 aircraft with the new sharkskin film, we will reduce the Lufthansa Group’s CO₂ footprint by more than 25,000 tons per year.”
At the end of 2021, the Lufthansa Group fleet comprised 713 aircraft. By 2030, Lufthansa Group is committed to halving its net CO2 emissions compared to 2019, and by 2050, Lufthansa Group wants to achieve a carbon-neutral balance sheet. To this end, the company is relying on accelerated fleet modernization, continuous optimization of flight operations, the use of sustainable aviation fuels, and innovative offerings for its customers to make a flight CO2-neutral.