Aircraft Carbon Emissions Cut With Paint

July 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

A lot of time and energy has been spent trying to find ways to reduce the carbon emissions of aircraft in recent times. New ways of powering aircraft or reducing drag have been intensively studied while a lot of energy has been put into creating lighter aircraft materials. However, it seems that Scottish inventors have now found a solution in the most unlikely place – paint!

A group of Edinburgh-based scientists have been carefully developing a new aircraft coating that could dramatically reduce the carbon emissions of aircraft. In fact, it is estimated that the average commercial aircraft can reduce its emissions in this way by an alarming 50 000 kg per a year! All this is essentially the by-product of a new, lighter paint. Through research it was discovered that it can take hundreds of kilograms of paint to coat just one large aircraft. Because the aircraft also burns a lot of fuel, even a small change in the aircraft’s weight can mean a big change in its fuel consumption. But how does the new paint work? Researchers have discovered that the weight of pigments can be reduced – sometimes by as much as 75% – through the use of microsphere technology. Essentially a microsphere is a small spherical particle that is smaller than a pollen spore. Unknown to the majority of consumers, they are already present in a number of consumer products. You can find them in many everyday items such as paints, cosmetics, insulators, adhesives and plastics. There are a number of different forms of microspheres and they can be mined from natural sources or man-made. By layering metals and pigments on hollow glass microspheres, aircraft paint can be made dramatically lighter.

This is good news for the air industry and great news for Microsphere Technology Ltd. The new company is the result of the research and it has just teamed up with Trelleborg Engineered Systems, a Swedish engineering firm, to get the paint ready for the aeronautics industry. The company’s aim is to reduce the weight of aircraft paints using the microsphere technology that was developed through this research. Besides reducing an aircraft’s carbon foot-print, the new surface coating can also save airplane owners a significant amount of fuel. Clearly the new coating is exactly the sort of green solution that many airplane owners are looking for.

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