Posted on: 14 February 2011 by Ross McSweeny
easyJet has become the first commercial airline to trial a nano-technology coating on its aircraft designed to reduce drag and thus increase fuel efficiency.
The ultra thin coating, already used on US military aircraft, is a polymer that crosslinks and bonds to the paint surface and only adds an estimated 4oz to the weight of the aircraft. The coating reduces the build up of debris on the aircraft’s structure, leading edge and other surfaces; thus reducing drag on the surface of the aircraft. The manufacturers of the coating estimate that a fuel saving of 1%-2% can be achieved. For the trial period, the airline has coated eight aircraft and will compare their fuel consumption with the rest of the fleet during a 12 month trial period.
The nano coating contains hard, durable acrylic elements and creates a perfectly smooth finish, filling the ‘pores’ of a surface with resin. This forms a barrier to prevent penetration by contaminants of the ‘hills and valleys’ of a surface invisible to the human eye.
The coating is applied by first using a preparation solution a cationic (positive) polarising wash to purge the pores of the surfaces to be treated and electrically charge the surface with a positive polarity. The pores are cleansed and charged and are ready to receive the anionic (negative) charged molecules of the emulsion. These molecules are pulled into the pores and held there, while all of the protective chemicals have crosslinked, bonded and cured, locking the coating into the paint and preventing drifting, fading or degradation of the paint until renewal.
The coating is less one millionth of a metre thick. It is applied and distributed in the UK by TripleO.
“easyJet is really pleased about the trial with the special coating on our aircraft,” commented Carolyn McCall easyJet’s CEO. “Efficiency is in easyJet’s DNA. If we can find new ways of reducing the amount of fuel used by our aircraft we can pass the benefits onto our passengers by offering them low fares and a lower carbon footprint.”