Innovation Fuels the Future of Air Travel

Airbus has developed an aircraft design that illustrates what air transport could look like in 2050. The Airbus Concept Plane (www.airbus.com/innovation/future-by-airbus/concept-planes) features ultra-long and slim wings, semi-embedded engines, a U-shaped tail, and a lightweight, intelligent body. The result is lower fuel burn, lower emissions, less noise, and greater comfort.

Biofuels Could Power Future Aviation

NASA recently performed emissions testing on alternative, renewable fuels for a greener and less petroleum-dependent future. Renewable means that the fuel source isn’t some form of fossil fuel. The source could be algae, a plant such as jatropha, or even rendered animal fat. In late March and early April, a team at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California tested renewable biofuel made from chicken and beef fat in one of the four engines of a DC-8 airplane. (www.nasa.gov/topics/aeronautics/features/aafex_biofuels.html)

The experiment’s chief scientist, Bruce Anderson of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, said that in the engine that burned the biofuel, black carbon emissions were 90 percent less at idle and almost 60 percent less at takeoff thrust. Anderson added that the biofuel also produced much lower sulfate, organic aerosol, and hazardous emissions than the standard jet fuel.

Boeing is leading a process to gain approval for synthetic paraffinic kerosene (Bio-SPK) jet fuel, a drop-in biofuel that has an energy density equal to or greater than conventional jet fuel. The biofuel has to be able to function in very high and very low temperatures. Airbus is also investigating the use of alternative energy sources such as biofuels, hydrogen, and solar power.

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