About the Product
Company: Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research IFAM Product Phase: Under development Product Type: Paint
Skin reduces drag: shark >
Product or process
This sharkskin-mimicking paint was developed using a sophisticated formula developed by the IFAM researchers. Not only is the paint long-lasting, but can withstand intense UV radiation, temperature changes, and mechanical loads due to the integration of specific nanoparticles into the formula. Instead of applying the paint directly to a ship or airplane’s shell, the paint is applied with the use of a stencil that causes tiny ridges to be formed all over the painted surface. Once the surface is treated with UV radiation to harden the paint, the stencil is removed and vessel’s exterior is coated with ridges that reduce drag, increasing fuel efficiency significantly.
Energy inefficiency due to drag on airplanes, ships, and potentially wind turbines.
Differences from existing products
Unlike other sharkskin-type coatings, this paint can function even under extreme temperature fluctuations, UV radiation, and high speeds. Additionally, the application does not require any extra layers, adds no extra weight to the vessel, and can be applied to complex 3-dimensional surfaces. When a plane or ship must be re-painted, the stripping and repainting process for this paint does not add any additional costs. The developers claim that if every airplane in the world were to be painted with this sharkskin paint, 4.48 million tons of fuel could be saved annually. At sea, wall friction on sea vessels can be reduced up to 5%, potentially saving a large container ship around 2,000 tons of fuel per year.
The biomimicry story
Shark skin is covered with tiny scale-like protrusions called dermal denticles. These act to make tiny divots all over the sharks body. These small dimples become what are known as "turbulators" meaning they cause turbulence of the layer of water that is surrounding the sharks body. When the shark is swimming, this turbulent layer of water can reduce drag. This same prinicple applies to air, which moves around a surface in a similar manner to liquid mediums.