The shark is a true master of drag reduction: Lufthansa Technik in a cooperation with BASF thought about the usage of this natural phenomenon and achieved its adaptation for commercial aircraft to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

The developed solution is entitled AeroSHARK and consists of adhesive bionic films that replicate the skin of sharks. The latter`s well-known efficiency is now used to optimize the airflow around the aircraft, thereby enabling significant fuel savings and emissions reduction.

AeroSHARK’s secret lies in the biomimetic film’s microscopic properties. It consists of a barely perceptible texture of small ribbed protrusions – the eponymous riblets. Sized in patches for easy and targeted application, the film has millions of these prism-shaped riblets, each one around 50 micrometers high. Applied to the aircraft in a specific manner and precisely aligned with the airflow, the riblets achieve efficiency gains by reducing skin friction and drag, similar to their counterparts in nature, and can also improve lift if attached on wings.

The riblet film is easy to apply, even on large commercial aircraft – it has already been certified with up to 500 m2 on a Boeing 747-400's lower fuselage and belly fairing. It is extremely resilient, withstands large temperature shifts and pressure differentials as well as the ultraviolet radiation on high flight levels. 

In 2022, SWISS became the first passenger airline in the world to deploy the new AeroSHARK aircraft skin technology to further reduce carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption in flight operations. By applying a total of 950 square meters of AeroSHARK riblet film to the fuselage and engine nacelle surfaces of a Boeing 777, fuel savings of approximately 1.1 percent can be achieved. This reduces annual fuel consumption by more than 4,800 metric tons and the total annual carbon dioxide emissions of the SWISS Boeing 777 fleet by up to 15,200 metric tons - equivalent to the amount emitted by some 87 long-haul flights from Zurich to Mumbai.

Since May 2024, 12 SWISS Boeing 777-300ERs and four Lufthansa Cargo 777Fs have been equipped with the drag-reducing riblet film. 

The riblet technology can be adapted to all kinds of aircraft with a similar effect; hence Lufthansa Technik already plans to certify it for additional surfaces and aircraft types in the near future.

The AeroSHARK effect