Sharkskin Inspired Paint Helps Planes, Boats Cheat Friction

Sharkskin Inspired Paint Helps Planes, Boats Cheat Friction

Shark - CC license by Flickr user Jeff Kubina

Paint inspired by the scales on sharks aims to reduce the amount of fuel used by airplanes and ships by cutting down on the resistance they face in the air and sea, in turn cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany developed paint that can withstand the extremes of air travel and a pattern that applies it like scales, in turn receiving the organization's Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize for research with practical uses.

Sharks' scales cut down on drag and resistance faced while swimming, and researchers Yvonne Wilke, Dr. Volkmar Stenzel and Manfred Peschk wanted to find a way to replicate that effect for planes and ships.
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They first developed paint made with nanoparticles that allow it to withstand temperatures ranging from -55 to 70 degrees Celsius, intense UV radiation and the speeds of air travel.

They then determined the best way to apply the paint to airplane exteriors in a way to mimic scales was to use a stencil.

The researchers also tested the paint and application process on a ship in a ship construction testing facility, finding that the paint reduces friction by more than five percent. Over one year of use, they say, the paint would reduce a large container ship's fuel needs by 2,000 tons.

Aside from ships and planes, another application for the paint could be on wind turbines, the researchers say, since it would cut down on air resistance that the turbine blades face and improve their efficiency.

Shark - CC license by Flickr user Jeff Kubina
 

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