Aviation fuel in the future will be sweet says researchers
This is a challenge that should be taken by Mumias Sugar Company to start making Aviation Fuel if it has failed to make sugar. New biofuel made from sugarcane biomass could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, researchers suggest. And as an added bonus, this sweet source of airplane fuel wouldn’t need to compete with food production as it can be grown on areas unsuitable for agriculture or marginal land.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new method to convert sugar and biomass-derived organic molecules called ketones into compounds that could serve as the building blocks of aviation fuel and perhaps even diesel. Co-author Alexis Bell told BBC NEWS that this “new route of chemistry” has allowed them to put “these components together to make jet diesel and lubricants.”
Prof Bell explained that there were a number of understandably strict requirements when it came to aviation fuel. The first one is that there must be no oxygen content, the reason being that any oxygen you put in decreases the energy density and as space on an aircraft is at a premium, and you’d like to pack in as much energy in the form of burnable fuel as possible and Secondly, the fuel must have the right boiling point distribution and then it has to have properties called lubricity, which means it does not cause excessive wear of the turbine components.
Though many governments have acknowledged the need for alternative fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry, and to mitigate climate change, they have yet to draw a ‘road map’ to using more renewable energy. Finding viable alternatives to aviation fuel is particularly challenging because, according to Bell in IBTimesUK neither solar power nor electricity can meet the needs of aviation fuel.
“Today all Aviation fuel is made almost exclusively from petroleum but the mandates in the US and Europe are that, progressively, more and more of the aviation fuel will have a biomass component, without specifying how it gets there. We are providing a strategy for getting there,” Bell added.
There are strict requirements when it comes to aviation fuel as it can’t contain any oxygen, must possess the right lubricity and boiling point distribution, and has to have a low pour point, which means it can’t become gelatinous at extremely low temperatures. Iflscience reports.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that their strategy could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 81%. Researchers urge policymakers to push for mandates that will tackle the issue of cost, “where any new technology producing a product that already exists is in a cost disadvantaged position,” Bell told IBTimes UK. With time, researchers hope the technology could be developed commercially and Aviation fuel will retailed in all major airports and airstrips.
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