Fuel is a major operating expense for the airline industry and its combustion is also an important source of emissions directly into the Earth's atmosphere. Reducing aircraft weight and/or drag can significantly reduce the amount of fuel needed for a given flight. Scientists evaluated a novel way to do both within the context of the EU-funded project 'Flight-tests with multi-functional coatings' (LH-LHT-RFT). Riblets, literally tiny grooves like little ribs on an aeroplane's surface, can funnel air to reduce drag and fuel consumption. The riblets are typically applied as multifunctional coatings. New paint systems support embossing of the riblets directly into the paint itself, reducing processing time and materials usage. The latter leads to weight and cost reductions. The trick to widespread implantation is to prove durability comparable to that of conventional coating systems. LH-LHT-RFT performed tests of riblet specimens applied on two commercial aircraft under realistic flight conditions to evaluate performance of the new integrated riblets. Success has inspired further projects with a focus on industrial-scale application. Air travel volume continues to increase and the world has become a smaller place thanks to the rapid transit connecting people across thousands of miles for business and pleasure. Widespread adoption by the aerospace industry of technology tested in LH-LHT-RFT stands to have tremendous impact on the environmental effects of air travel. It would also provide an important competitive boost to the EU aerospace and coatings industries.
Riblets, drag, emissions, aircraft weight, multi-functional coatings, fuel consumption, multifunctional coatings, paint