May 20, 2010
Sharkskin For Airplanes, Ships And Wind Energy Plants
To lower the fuel consumption of airplanes and ships, it is necessary to reduce their flow resistance, or drag. An innovative paint system makes this possible. This not only lowers costs, it also reduces CO2 emissions.
The inspiration "“ and model "“ for the paint"Ës structure comes from nature: The scales of fast-swimming sharks have evolved in a manner that significantly diminishes drag, or their resistance to the flow of currents. The challenge was to apply this knowledge to a paint that could withstand the extreme demands of aviation. Temperature fluctuations of -55 to +70 degrees Celsius; intensive UV radiation and high speeds. Yvonne Wilke, Dr. Volkmar Stenzel and Manfred Peschka of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research IFAM in Bremen developed not only a paint that reduces aerodynamic drag, but also the associated manufacturing technology. In recognition of their achievement, the team is awarded the 2010 Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize.
When applied to every airplane every year throughout the world, the paint could save a volume of 4.48 million tons of fuel. This also applies to ships: The team was able to reduce wall friction by more than five percent in a test with a ship construction testing facility. Extrapolated over one year, that means a potential savings of 2,000 tons of fuel for a large container ship. With this application, the algae or muscles that attach to the hull of a ship only complicate things further. Researchers are working on two solutions for the problem. Yvonne Wilke explains: "Å¾One possibility exists in structuring the paint in such a way that fouling organisms cannot get a firm grasp and are simply washed away at high speeds, for example. The second option aims at integrating an anti-fouling element "“ which is incompatible for nature."
Irrespective of the fuel savings, there are even more interesting applications "“ for instance, with wind energy farms. Here as well, air resistance has a negative effect on the rotor blades. The new paint would improve the degree of efficiency of the systems "“ and thus the energy gain.
Image Caption: Yvonne Wilke, Dr. Volkmar Stenzel and Manfred Peschka engineered a paint system that can reduce the flow resistance of airplanes and ships. That saves fuel. (Ã© Fraunhofer / Dirk Mahler)
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