Intelligent Energy

Plane takes first flight on 100% biofuel

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:

Images: EADS/Dannenberg
Via: MarketWatch

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure