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Sharkskin Paint

June 30, 2010

A paint modeled on sharkskin could reduce drag on aircraft and save fuel.


Aerodynamic paint. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A shark’s scales reduce drag and help the shark swim fast. Now scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have developed a way to paint similar scales onto airplanes and cargo ships. Engineer Volkmar Stenzel says that airplanes already use sharkskin-like foils, but they add weight and can’t be used on the whole plane.

VOLKMAR STENZEL (Fraunhofer Institute, Germany):
And from these reasons, we got the question from the aircraft industry of whether we could think of a paint solution.

They loaded their paint with tiny particles that resist extreme temperatures and UV radiation, and apply it through a stencil to create the scale pattern. The researchers say that if every airplane in the world got the coating, it could save nearly four and a half million tons of fuel per year. Stenzel says the coating could also help wind turbines generate energy more efficiently. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.