When a Two-Percent Solution Equals $22 million, Nanotechnology Matters

I have argued in the past that when it comes to nanotechnology and energy, it’s the mundane that’s interesting

Case in point, the UK-based airline EasyJet has just announced that they are embarking on a 12-month test of a new nanocoating that when applied to the exterior of their planes could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 2%.

 

When your annual fuel bill is £730m (nearly US$1.2 billion), then that 2% can mean a savings of £14m (approximately US$22.4 million). Suddenly a coating becomes interesting, doesn’t it?

Apparently the coating has been used on US military aircraft for some time but this will mark the first time the coating has been used on a commercial aircraft.

After coating an entire aircraft it only adds 4oz (113g) to the total weight of the plane, which, when compared to the 80kg (176 pounds) that regular paint adds to the weight of a plane, gives you an indication of how thin this nanocoating is.

The nanocoating basically fills in all the pits and crevices that exist within the paint on a microscopic scale, which ensures that no debris or dirt builds on the surface.

I don’t know who has developed the nanostructured coating but in the UK the company applying it the EasyJet aircraft is a company called TripleO. To get the coating to work, TripleO performs what they call a “polarizing wash” in which the surface of the aircraft is given a charge of positive polarity so when the polymer-based nanocoating is applied it will bond to the existing paint surface.

Initially, EasyJet is trying this out with eight planes, and if the cut in fuel costs are what they expecting then they will go ahead and coating the other rest of 200-plane fleet.

If this catches on with the entire commercial airline industry, then cuts in fuel consumption would be dramatic along with similar reductions in carbon emissions. You see, you don’t have to create a super efficient solar cell to make an impact in energy applications with nanotechnology.

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Nanoclast

IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

 
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Dexter Johnson
Madrid, Spain
 
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Associate Editor, IEEE Spectrum
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