NASA's best known for its space missions, and bugs are best known for buzzing your barbecue and irritating hikers—but now we learn that bugs also slow down jetliners and increase fuel consumption. And NASA is doing something about it.
NASA researchers have been testing non-stick wing coatings that are designed to slough off bug guts (politely referred to as "insect residue") that accumulate as planes take off and land. The agency used its Boeing 757 "ecoDemonstrator" to test the coatings in repeated take-offs and landings from Shreveport Regional Airport in Louisiana. Sorry, tourist bureau: the area was chosen because of its "significant bug population."
"Laminar aircraft wings are designed to be aerodynamically efficient," said Mia Siochi, senior materials scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. "If you have bugs accumulating, it causes the airflow to trip from smooth or laminar to turbulent, causing additional drag. An aircraft that's designed to have laminar wings flying long distance can save five to six percent in fuel usage. Surprisingly, all you need are little bugs that trip the flow and you lose part of this benefit."
NASA developed over 200 formulas to try in a wind tunnel, and selected 31 to try on the actual flights. The results are being made available to industry for further development. There's MORE at NASA's website.