Advanced Laminar Flow Enabling Technologies (ALFET)
A key target of the ACARE Flightpath 2050 vision for aviation in Europe is that of reducing CO2 emissions by 75% (relative to 2000 levels), a key contributor to a reduction in aircraft drag. Natural Laminar Flow (NLF) offers the potential for significant drag reductions – in the order of 5% of overall aircraft drag – by extending the surface area over which the boundary layer flow remains laminar, driving down the level of skin friction drag. However, delivering an NLF wing concept in the context of a commercial transport aircraft presents significant challenges, not only for the aerodynamic design of the wing shape, but perhaps more importantly for the structural design and manufacture of the wing, including the integration of all the necessary sub-systems such as high-lift devices, ice protection systems, and the subsequent in-service operation.
Building upon and continuing the work performed under the APART and SAWOF programmes, ATI-supported ALFET aimed to enable the consortium to improve the understanding and develop the relevant design tools and philosophies in respect of:
- NLF aero wing shape for new wing planforms adapted for the technology, including robustness to the effects of surface imperfections and the definition of surface tolerance requirements
- The structural design and manufacture of a cost-effective NLF wing concept delivering the required aero performance, particularly in terms of surface quality during the life of the aircraft
- The conceptual design of new wing planforms to maximise the benefits of NLF, integration at an overall aircraft level, including fuel planning, in-service operability and assessments of net benefit
The overall objective was to deliver the capability – i.e. the tools, processes, philosophies and underlying understanding needed to perform the multi-disciplinary, integrated design and manufacture of a Natural Laminar Flow wing aircraft concept, essentially to bring the NLF technology towards TRL6 maturity.