AVIATION TECHNOLOGY—A GREEN TOMORROW

June 10, 2012


 Data for this blog is derived from NASA TECH BRIEFS, “Changing How We Fly”, June 2012, Vol. 36, Number 6.

If you travel at all, you are more than familiar with domestic transportation in our country.     It is a given fact that commercial airlines have become “bus service” for millions of people in the United States.  I traveled from Atlanta to Bangor, Maine this past week for $309.00—round trip.  I’m not too sure I could have done that traveling by bus or train and it would have taken at least twenty-four hours one way.     Even more amazing are the facts concerning international travel from the United States.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that last year alone, U.S. and foreign air carriers transported an estimated 168.1 million passengers between the United States and the rest of the world.  The FAA also estimates there will be one billion passengers by 2024.  An amazing number considering rising fuel costs, much more crowded air space, outdated systems and increasing environmental concerns.  How will we handle these conditions?  The answer is technology!  Technology will address these areas in the following manner:

  • Green Aviation—Acceptance and use of biofuels
  •  Modification and design of wings and wing tips providing increased efficiencies
  •  A new generation of aircraft engines designed for noise abatement while running on biofuels
  • Lightweight composite structures reducing the need for “heavy metals”. (NOTE: One remarkable benefit for using composite materials is the ability to make needed repairs quickly.)
  • Better and more refined management systems to accommodate heightened safety and smoother flow of  passengers

 I would like to address only one area of investigation with this paper, “green aviation”.

GREEN AVIATION:

When we talk about green aviation, we address our responsibility for the impact of aviation on the environment, which includes carbon footprint, other emissions and last but certainly not least, noise.  Last year, ASTM International published new rules overseeing the specifications for jet fuel allowing the use of biofuels on all commercial flights.  The revision to standard D7566, “Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons”, includes requirements for synthetic fuel components manufactured from hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids ( HEFA ) produced from renewable sources.  This standard allows new components to be manufactured from jatropha camelina, and fats, combined with conventional aviation jet fuel.  These synthetic fuels must be able to function in desert heat or in cold temperatures up to 40,000 feet.  The Boeing Company has been leading the push for approval of synthetic paraffinic kerosene (Bio-SPK) jet fuel and is testing algae and camelina-based fuels.   France-based Airbus is helping to develop a second-generation of biofuels, known as biomass, which will avoid competing with food resources.  Boeing recently flew the world’s first commercial airplane from Everett, Washington to Paris using biologically derived fuel.  The 747-8 Freighter’s four GE GEnx-2B engines were powered by a blend of 15 % camelina-based biofuel mixed with 85% traditional kerosene fuel ( Jet-A).  There was no need to make changes to the airplane, its engines, or operating procedures to accommodate the biofuel.  I think this is truly fascinating.  There also were significant reductions in carbon dioxide and NoX emissions resulting in carbon footprint reduction for the aircraft.    A recent report indicated the carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft engines is approximately 20% more than previously thought.   These emissions could hit a whopping 1.5 million tons by 2025. Far more than the worst-case predictions of the International Panel on Climate Change.     If you’re looking to put that number in perspective, the European Union currently emits 3.1 billion tons of CO2 annually– that’s the entire 27-nation, 457 million person EU.   The report, “Trends in Global Aviation Noise and Emissions from Commercial Aviation for 2000 to 2025,” is among the most authoritative estimates of the industry’s growth in emissions.   It was produced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Eurocontrol, the Manchester Metropolitan University and the technology company QinetiQ.   They used a variety of models to calculate current fuel use, then projected out to 2025 based on these findings and anticipated increases in air travel.  Their assessment, if correct, certainly indicates changes are necessary to bring about modifications bringing down CO2 and NoX emissions.  GE, Boeing, Airbus, Pratt & Whitney and other manufacturers of airframe and engines are definitely on the correct path to aid efforts in accomplishing this task.  In short—THIS PROBLEM WILL NOT GO AWAY AND BIOFUELS SEEM TO BE ONE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM.  I mention this to indicate you will be hearing additional information in the upcoming weeks and months, so don’t be surprised when these remarkable advancements occur.

I would like to recommend you  access the following web site to learn more about the General Electric aircraft engine that accomplished the above-mentioned performance:   http://www.geaviation.com/engines/commercial/genx/

 

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