Helium coat could cut plane drag

Helium, an inert gas which does not combine with other substances, could form the basis of a new coating on aircraft that would put an end to aerodynamic drag. Fuel costs would plummet and so would air fares. The problem, according to researchers at BOC , is that if nothing sticks to helium, and helium […]

Helium, an inert gas which does not combine with other substances, could form the basis of a new coating on aircraft that would put an end to aerodynamic drag.

Fuel costs would plummet and so would air fares.

The problem, according to researchers at BOC , is that if nothing sticks to helium, and helium sticks to nothing, it could prove difficult to helium-plate an aeroplane.

But BOC researchers are working on it. The look, they say, would be a smart granite-grey colour.

An air molecule hitting the wing of Concorde sticks to it briefly and acquires the velocity of the wing at around Mach 1+.

When the molecule flies off again it runs away with its own tiny share of stolen energy, says BOC.

In contrast, an air molecule hitting a helium surface would have nothing to atttract it.

It would bounce straight off again, taking no energy with it, which would put an end to drag.

BOC researchers have found that cleveite, a variety of the uranium ore pitchblende, somehow binds to helium.

Mixing cleveite with sulphuric acid produces helium gas.

A cleveite-based paint could act as the substrate for the helium plating, they say.