Posting in Aerospace
It's a bird. It's Superman. It's a plane flying on algae! But will this biofuel cost too much to ever take off? International aerospace company EADS hopes not.
Renewable fuels have had many burgeoning developments this year. Just this month, a sun-powered plane flew through the darkness of night. In March, I discussed the U.S. Air Force testing a biofuel blend on some of its fighter jets.
Then, at the International Aerospace Exhibition in Germany was the world's first plane to take to the air on nothing but algae-based biofuel.
The plane will take flight again at the Farnborough Airshow this week. According to EADS (the maker of the Airbus), the higher energy content of the biofuel allows their Diamond Aircraft DA42 New Generation to use almost a half gallon less fuel per hour than it would on conventional, kerosene-based jet fuel. And the small aircraft does so without extensive engine modifications or sacrificing performance. Compared to Jet-A1 fuel, the exhaust from the algae fuel has 8 times less hydrocarbons as well as reduced nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions.
MarketWatch quotes Jean Botti, chief Technology Officer for EADS:
We absolutely need to find a plan B for the replacement of kerosene. What we're doing on biofuels right now is a very promising way of getting to that point. The potential from the use of algae is the highest I have seen so far.
The cost of producing enough algae to use the biofuel on a large scale, however, remains prohibitively high.
Even so, EADS hopes to help develop the industrial infrastructure to support the fuel. They optimistically seek to have a pilot project within five years running planes on 100-percent biofuel, possibly between Toulouse and Paris. By 2030, they aim to have 10 percent of their fleet flying on pure or blended biofuel.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Fighter jet takes to the sky with biofuel blend
- U.S. Navy F/A 18 super Hornet: first supersonic jet to fly on biofuels
- Honeywell Dutch Air Force achieve first helicopter flight on sustainable biofuels
- Solar plane attempts 24-hour flight
Jul 21, 2010
@mario It might help if you actually read the posts to which you are responding, so that you don't come off as, at best, slightly addled.
So vulpine@, if your suggestion that all we have to do is address issues of fuel used in airplanes and wolla all is back to normal why are we looking to electric cars, or paying more of electricity or other tax which affect consumption and make us poorer?
@keitha73: You make some erroneous assumptions in your analysis, and I'm not really sure why. JetA is significantly lighter than diesel, though it smells almost the same. JetA also does not gel at high altitudes the way diesel does at least partially due to this lighter mixture. Even so, traditional biofuels that you currently buy/make from cooking oils are thicker and usually made from corn, peanut or other normally harvested crops. The biofuel used in the experiment described above is purpose made from algae, not an oil squeezed from seeds of one sort or another. Odds are that this fuel is at least as light as JetA and may perform as though you had added a couple gallons of regular gas to it, giving it more energy while hopefully not increasing the heat of the combustion excessively. @gdstark13: I hope you enjoy the next 25 years or so, my friend. Forecasts currently indicate that summers will run as much as 15 degrees above normal and winters as much as 15 degrees below normal by the end of that time. I do commend you on one thought, though. In the week that civil aircraft were grounded after the twin towers incident, average temperatures dropped as much as 5 degrees below forecasts and the skies were as blue as though a major frontal system had just blown through. It would be nice if we could cut all high-altitude emissions and let our atmosphere restore itself.
Biofuels are silly. Then add to that the fact that flying in general is environmentally silly. That makes this whole this concept extral silly. What next? Biofuel racecars? Biofuel humvees? Oops...I think they already did that last one. It will be nice when all the environmental fraud falls by the wayside. First on that list will be biofuels. gary
The issue with traditional biofuels (such as those used in cars) is that they tend to gel up at high altitudes due to the cold. Now, there are and have been additives to keep deisel (which is basically what airplane fuel is) to keep it from gelling in cold weather. The issue isn't that we need to look to new biofuels, but that we need to find an additive to existing biofuels that will keep them from gelling and get past the FAA. Although the military will take the first steps, the real implications in air travel polution are in the commercial sector, aka air travel. *Actually it was a cruise company that took the first real steps to using biofuel in comercial jetliners. They used biofuel in one of their cruiseliners to power a turbine engine built by GE that is the same engine used on some 737s. Of course cruise ships don't have the same problem with altitude.