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NASA tests airplane wings that shrug off insect guts

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You may not think of insects as a problem for aircraft (Bambi Meets Godzilla comes to mind), but they really are -- the residue from those splattered bugs slows aircraft down and hikes fuel consumption. NASA may soon have a way to keep those critters from causing so much trouble, however. It recently conducted flight testing for a promised non-stick wing coating that stops ex-bugs from inducing drag. The layer, which combines a lotus leaf-inspired ("microscopically-rough") repellant surface with anti-sticking chemicals, was good enough to cut back on the nasty organic residue by as much as 40 percent.

The real-world results support what researchers predicted in the lab, and they suggest that you could both improve the fuel use for existing aircraft and design smaller, more efficient flying machines. You could get away with a 17 percent tinier tail on an airliner like the trial run's Boeing 757, for a start. Although it'll take a while before you see these augmented wings at the local airport, they could eventually do a lot to help the environment... and save ground crews from rather disgusting clean-up jobs.

[Image credit: NASA Langley/Paul Bagby]

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