With the aerospace industry being worth over £30bn per year within the UK alone, there is a constant need to focus on improving performance, increasing efficiencies and reducing costs wherever possible. While a large portion of this focus is spent on the technological advancement of equipment and systems, surface coatings are also used in a variety of ways to aid with the performance of the aircraft being created, as well as helping to meet requirements for reduced engine emissions.
- Reduced in-flight drag – by applying a non-stick coating to the surface of the aeroplanes and spacecraft, it can vastly reduce the chances of insects, dirt and other micro-debris building up. By helping to keep the surface of the plane smooth, especially the wings, this can reduce the amount of drag experienced whilst in-flight, which in turn reduces both the fuel consumption and engine emissions.
- Prevention of icing – similarly to above, in-flight icing can be a major issue for airlines to deal with, not only can it have an impact on the fuel efficiency of the plane, but it can also cause safety issues with engine stalling and reduced control of the aircraft. By applying a hydrophobic coating to the outer surface of a plane, it can prevent water droplets collecting on the surface, meaning ice cannot then form.
- Improved spacecraft surface durability – spacecraft need to be able to withstand the tough atmospheric conditions they experience, none more so than those planned for use in Mars exploration due to the amount of dust in the atmosphere. To combat that and ensure that the surface of the spacecrafts are protected from erosion, a durable non-stick coating can be implemented, which can help relieve one of the key potential issues.
- Cleaner aeroplane toilets – rather than using a water based flush, toilets on planes utilise a vacuum suction system to minimise the amount of water needed to be carried during a flight. To assist the vacuum operation, the bowls of the toilets are applied with a non-stick coating to ensure they are kept as clean as possible.
As well as the above, coatings are applied to a wide range of components used within the manufacture of aircraft to improve durability and increase resistance to the extreme conditions experienced during flights. By embracing non-stick technologies, the aerospace industry can take steps towards reducing emissions and increasing their efficiencies, as well as making flights safer for passengers and crew.