Lufthansa Technik, one of the world’s leading providers of technical aircraft services, has integrated Ansys’ simulation solutions to design and certify AeroSHARK, a biomimetic coating technology that emulates shark skin and significantly reduces fuel consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

By leveraging Ansys’ computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and high-performance computing (HPC) technology, Lufthansa Technik and BASF, a chemical company, designed the coating film with a subtle ribbed texture consisting of small elevations referred to as riblets.

The riblet effect imitates the placoid scales on shark skin, which help sharks cut through water effortlessly by reducing drag and friction while increasing buoyancy. Engineers used Ansys’ CFD to analyse turbulent flow phenomena surrounding the riblets to ensure they would generate the same effect.

Shark skin

Lufthansa Technik used Ansys’ tools to build and validate smaller, more generic virtual prototypes of AeroSHARK before scaling and tailoring the prototypes through comprehensive aerodynamic simulations. With the ability to simulate the entire aircraft, including in-flight behaviour, and verify the riblet effect using innovative turbulence modelling, Lufthansa Technik reduced the risk of physical flight tests and drastically reduced the time to certification.

AeroSHARK is certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the American Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) for two types of Boeing 777s and is currently operating in flight by Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) and Lufthansa Cargo. Once all eleven Boeing 777Fs at Lufthansa Cargo and all twelve 777-300ERs at SWISS have received their AeroSHARK modification, they will reduce the Lufthansa Group’s carbon footprint by more than 25,000 tonnes annually.

Sustainable air transport

“AeroSHARK can significantly contribute to more sustainable air transport,” said Stefan Kuntzagk, senior engineer, aircraft performance, CFD, and flight test at Lufthansa Technik. “With the ability to model aircraft and aerodynamic behaviour in a predictively accurate, robust, and computationally efficient manner by using Ansys’ simulation solutions, we can enhance and expand our shark-inspired technology to make entire subfleets more climate-friendly, reduce fuel consumption, and decrease CO₂ emissions for commercial aircraft.”

Today, because of successful simulation-powered testing, 40% of the aircraft can already be covered by AeroSHARK with plans to extend its coverage to other areas of the plane.

“We are constantly amazed by the creativity of our customers, and Lufthansa Technik has elicited the same reaction with its trailblazing AeroSHARK coating technology, which has the potential to significantly reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions,” said Walt Hearn, senior vice president of worldwide sales and customer excellence at Ansys.

“Our customers continue to demonstrate what is possible when Ansys’ simulation solutions are combined with ingenuity and vision. As more sustainable propulsion systems are still being researched and tested, innovations like AeroSHARK are pivotal in the immediate reduction of aviation’s carbon footprint.”
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