Airlines have taken away everything from snacks to checked bags to legroom, but if the airplane biz can save a little extra money with a fuel-saving nanocoating, there's a slim chance that we might get our peanuts back. Just let a fella dream for a moment, all right?
You might not be able to tell, but even the smoothest surfaces often contain cracks on the microscopic level. These cracks make little hidey-holes for air, generating measurable extra drag on fast-moving vehicles like aircraft.
In an effort to
reduce their carbon footprint and help save the planet save some cash, British airline Easyjet has begun painting its aircraft with a transparent coating called 'tripleO.' The tripleO coating is made of nano-scale acrylic polymer beads, which find their way into the cracks and pores in the aircraft's paint, filling them in and making the whole thing as smooth as an acrylic-covered baby's bottom. This results in a reduction in drag of up to 40%, and only adds about four ounces of weight to the plane.
Somehow, this 40% drag reduction only results in a fuel savings of 1-2%, but for big fleets like Easyjet, this adds up to tens of millions of dollars per year. The coating also protects the paint from wear and debris and lowers maintenance costs. The U.S. military has been using this stuff for years, but this is the first time it's been applied commercially.
While large and fast vehicles that suck down lots of fuel gain the most from coatings like this, there's no reason that it couldn't be applied to boats, cars, bicycles, or joggers to increase their efficiency too.