Engineers at NASA and Boeing have used Boeing's ecoDemonstrator 757 aircraft to test five types of non-stick coatings designed to reduce fuel consumption by keeping insect residue from sticking to the plane's right wing.
NASA said Monday researchers working on the agency's Environmentally Responsible Aviation initiative selected Shreveport Regional Airport in Louisiana for the two-week testing due to the area's huge bug population.
Mia Siochi, senior materials scientist at NASA’s Virginia-based Langley Research Center, said bug residue that accumulates on an aircraft's wing can create drag, which increases a plane's fuel usage by causing “the airflow to trip from smooth or laminar to turbulent.“
Siochi said experts have used lotus leaves as inspiration to come up with the right surface and coating combinations.
“When you look at a lotus leaf under the microscope the reason water doesn’t stick to it is because it has these rough features that are pointy.“
“We’re trying to use that principle in combination with chemistry to prevent bugs from sticking,“ she added.
Fay Collier, ERA project manager, said, “There still is a lot of research to be done, but early data indicated one coating had about a 40 percent reduction in bug counts and residue compared to a control surface mounted next to it.“
NASA collaborated with the Transportation Department and University of California-Davis to choose the venue for the testing.