MicroTau receives $2 m CEFC investment to develop shark-inspired coating for planes and ships

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has made a $2 million investment in a seed round for MicroTau, a Sydney-based company that has developed a shark skin-inspired coating reducing drag in airplanes by up to 7 per cent in tests.

MicroTau is able to print microscopic riblets through an additive manufacturing process it calls Direct Contactless Microfabrication. According to its website, the microstructured coating has shown a 7 per cent drag reduction in wind tunnel testing conducted by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force, and can be applied during maintenance.

Founder and CEO Henry Bilinsky said in a statement that, “Aviation and shipping have a burning fuel problem that’s only getting worse. 

“Over millions of years nature has developed solutions to improve efficiency, and now – with the backing of the CEFC – MicroTau will put shark skin inspired film on planes to help fight climate change.”

The company said on Tuesday that it had spent the last six years developing “Nature’s 3D printer”, and estimates its film could save more than $US 34 billion in fuel costs annually if rolled out globally in the shipping and aviation industries.

The company’s website describes its microfabrication as able to print out of existing UV coatings leveraging the properties of existing materials” and able to provide “a property that may be applied to multiple industries.”

Besides a direct to surface application, the company said it is integrating its process “into conveyor systems, and roll-to-roll systems that produce self-adhesive ‘applique’ films.”

“The MicroTau technology has the potential to be a cost effective, scalable solution that can be retrofitted to existing transport to help minimise the carbon footprint of major transport industries,” said Ian Learmonth, CEO of the CEFC, adding that it “has developed its innovative product and business to an impressive standard, with a research and development program that has strong momentum.”

MicroTau said it aimed to improve the drag reduction offered by its product to 8 per cent by year’s end.

The Clean Energy Innovation Fund investment is part of a $5.6 million seed round, which has included strategic investors such as venture capitalist Bill Tai and Amanda Terry, both of ACTAI Ventures.

Picture: MicroTau

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