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No dragon, China surprises the world with SHARK skin super jet: Is the era of American superiority over?

Written by Roberta Souza
Published 10/06/2024 às 17:27
photo/reproduction: adobestock

Shark skin-inspired technology drives development of next-generation turbofan engines!

A China announced a revolutionary innovation that promises to transform aviation technology: a sharkskin-inspired structure inside a turbofan engine. This innovation has the potential to position China ahead in the development of jet engines, with the possibility of surpassing American advances, according to ocafezinho.

The secret behind innovation

A turbofan engine is a type of jet engine with a fan at the front, which increases the amount of air pushed to the rear, improving efficiency and reducing fuel consumption. Commonly used in commercial and military aircraft, this type of engine is known for its good performance. The Chinese novelty, inspired by shark skin, promises to further revolutionize this technology.

The “shark skin” structure is made with a high-strength titanium alloy, created through high-precision 3D printing. Chinese researchers claim that this innovation can reduce friction by up to 10%, significantly improving engine performance. The main focus is on a component called the intermediate casing, a crucial element that connects various parts of the engine and transmits power to the aircraft structure.

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photo/reproduction: ocafezinho

Technological advancement: the key to superiority

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the intermediate casing, more than one meter in diameter and with special grooves measuring just 15 to 35 micrometers, is essential for this innovation. Even though it is only 3mm at its thinnest point, this casing is extremely strong, supporting more than 10 tons of weight. Previously, it was impossible to manufacture such a large and precise component with a 3D printer, but Chinese researchers have overcome this challenge with advanced techniques.

Laboratory tests confirmed that the Chinese prototype meets rigorous mechanical requirements and is 25% lighter than traditional parts, without losing strength. This marks the beginning of a new era of lighter, more efficient engines that could transform aviation.

Air competition: China vs. USA

Does innovation position China closer to the US? However, the Chinese report suggests that this technology could help Beijing catch up and possibly surpass the United States in developing modern engines, a field where China has historically lagged behind. For years, Chinese military aircraft relied on jet engines imported from Russia, which often had reliability problems.

Thus, with the inclusion of the improvement of jet engines in China's 13th Five-Year Plan in 2016, the country began to invest heavily in the development of its own engines. This effort came to fruition with the introduction of the Woshan-15 (WS-15) “Emei” engines on the J-20 stealth fighters, gaining international attention. John R. Sneden, director of propulsion at the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, warned that the U.S. was losing its propulsion lead to China.

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F-35 US fighter jet – photo/reproduction: cnnbrasil

Global impact and future of Chinese aviation

Although Chinese technology does not yet fully rival that of the US, Chinese media claim that the new shark skin technology could make China competitive. The next generation of engines needs to reduce fuel consumption to increase thrust, a significant challenge.

China's advances come as the U.S. reevaluates its approach to next-generation combat engines. Recently, the US Air Force announced plans to abandon the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) in favor of upgrading existing engines, highlighting the challenges in developing new propulsion systems. Speaking to EurAsian Times, Brazilian defense expert Patricia Marins recognized the transformative potential of this new technology, especially for cruise missiles and drones, despite military jets typically using turbojet engines.

Thus, in early 2022, the Lufthansa Group's Boeing 747-400 introduced AeroSHARK, a coating with ribbed textures to reduce friction and improve fuel efficiency. This application of biomimicry aims to reduce fuel consumption and reduce carbon emissions, reflecting the airline industry's commitment to sustainability.

The path to Chinese leadership

Therefore, China's latest advancement could significantly impact the future of aviation, offering a path to more efficient and environmentally friendly engines. However, with continued investment and innovation, China's military is well positioned to challenge the dominance of traditional aerospace leaders such as the US. The future of military aviation could be more competitive and dynamic, with China and the US constantly pushing the limits of technology.

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Roberta Souza

Petroleum Engineer, postgraduate in Commissioning of Industrial Units, specialist in Industrial Corrosion. Get in touch to suggest an agenda, advertise job vacancies or advertise on our portal. We do not receive resumes

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