Green Flight - Is Algae The Aviation Fuel Of The Future?

Pratt & Whitney Canada is conducting research into a new source for aircraft fuel that is green…literally. The source is algae.

According to a press release, Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) is leading a groundbreaking aerospace industry-university research effort to investigate the potential use of biofuels for small and medium size engine applications.

The most recognized biofuel is Ethanol, most commonly derived from corn. While corn is a renewable resource, it is also food. Critics of Ethanol charge that using corn for fuel will drive up food prices. P&WC is evaluating the feasibility of using "second generation" biofuels that originate from sources that do not compete with human food sources.

These could include jatropha and algae derived biofuels, as well as biobutanol to power aircraft engines. "Already a leader in green technologies for small aviation engines, we aim to have a fuel-flexible engine and to develop technologies that will allow us to offer aircraft manufacturers innovative and green power solutions," said Walter Di Bartolomeo, vice president - Engineering, P&WC.

The objectives for the four-year project include identifying and assessing appropriate biofuels, studying their effect on engine components such as combustors and fuel systems, developing appropriate technologies and design changes to accommodate them, and conducting tests comparing current jet fuels with first generation ethanol, as well as second generation biofuels.

According to US News and World Report, Airbus, Honeywell, Boeing, and Virgin Atlantic have announced they are exploring the possibility of algae-based fuels. The story also reports that algae fuels could power a third of commercial aircraft by 2030.

Source: Pratt & Whitney Canada and US News and World Report
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