When you’re trying to make several tons of metal and other material fly through the air, even a slight improvement in fuel efficiency could save million of dollars and reduce the amount of harmful emissions, NASA knows this better than anyone. While the organization is working on a few ways to improve fuel efficiency, there’s one such method that definitely seems far fetched as it uses bug-repellent.
When it comes to commercial aviation, even the smallest improvements in fuel efficiency mean millions of dollars saved and fewer harmful emissions in our atmosphere. That’s why NASA is looking everywhere for ways to improve fuel efficiency. Two of its most promising projects — a bug-repellant coating and a new technology for smaller vertical tails — are now ready to be tested in the real world. Bugs splattered across the surface of a commercial jet might seem pretty insignificant, but NASA researchers say they can decrease fuel efficiency by as much as six percent. When those dead bugs collect on aerodynamically-sensitive elements like the leading edge of wings, they disturb the airflow over the surface. That causes turbulent air and drag — which ultimately reduces efficiency. So NASA’s testing five different nonstick coatings on Boeing’s “ecoDemonstrator” 757 aircraft over a number of 15 different flights at a particularly buggy airport, located in Shreveport, Louisiana. Researchers will not only test to see how many fewer bugs stick to the surface, but also whether the coatings can withstand the rigors of commercial aviation.