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#Sustainability20: Rolls-Royce Successfully Tests Hydrogen In Take-Off Engine Conditions & More
Weekly Roundup - 29/09/23
Each Friday, we publish a round-up of the 20 most important stories on sustainable aviation. You can see previous editions of #Sustainability20 here.
The FAA is investing nearly $300m to develop sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supply chains and reduce emissions. The Fueling Aviation’s Sustainable Transition (FAST) scheme, part of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, will fund infrastructure and new technologies.
Lufthansa's CEO, Carsten Spohr, warns that using green fuels like e-kerosene would require half of Germany's electricity. He emphasises the challenges of SAF availability, high costs, and European Union quotas. Currently, Lufthansa's SAF use is around 0.2% of its total fuel consumption.
As the world sweltered through the hottest three-month spell in human history this summer, extreme weather disasters took more than 18,000 lives, drove at least 150,000 people from their homes, affected hundreds of millions of others and caused billions of dollars of damage. That is a conservative tally from the most widely covered disasters between early June and early September.
Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
Viva Aerobus, a Mexican airline, is partnering with OpenAirlines to adopt the SkyBreathe® 360° platform, leveraging Big Data, AI, and Machine Learning for fuel efficiency. The software, reducing fuel consumption by up to 5%, aids pilots, engineers, and fuel managers in eco-friendly operations.
Canberra Airport Group is partnering with Vast Solar, investing up to $10 million in their solar technology. This collaboration aims to advance SAF, with Vast's technology receiving significant backing, including from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Finavia, Finland's airport company, is prioritising sustainable airport maintenance amidst climate change challenges. Key actions include an innovative sub-surface flow wetland at Helsinki Airport for effluent water management, and optimised de-icing practices. The wetland aids in treating stormwaters, improving local water quality.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
The U.S. EPA's advisory board's draft report suggests minimal climate benefits from using corn-starch ethanol versus gasoline, causing industry backlash. The report's findings have intensified divisions over a proposed tax credit and ethanol's emissions reduction potential.
Neste and SQUAKE are partnering to integrate Neste's SAF into flight booking systems. Travel platform Goodwings is the first to adopt this measure, enabling businesses to opt for SAF and automating the booking process.
Exxon Mobil is exploring methanol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (MTJ-SPK) as a SAF. Early tests show promise, but ASTM International's approval process is ongoing. Exxon's method directly converts methanol to jet fuel.
MIT researchers, led by Professor Yuriy Román-Leshkov, have developed a method to produce aviation fuel from biomass, specifically lignin. Lignin, largely wasted in biofuel production, provides the aromatic molecules essential for jet fuel properties. By using a catalyst, the team successfully transformed lignin into potential SAF components. Early tests are promising, suggesting a future for 100% sustainable aircraft fuel.
New technology: Electric and Hydrogen
Rolls-Royce, in collaboration with easyJet, Loughborough University, and the German Aerospace Centre, successfully tested hydrogen fuel in an engine's take-off thrust conditions. Using innovative nozzles, they controlled hydrogen's rapid combustion, progressing towards SAF solutions. Future plans include ground tests and potential flight tests.
VoltAero, a French aviation company, flew a hybrid-electric aircraft powered by SAF derived from waste produced by French vineyards. This vineyard-based fuel reduces CO2 emissions by 65%, aiming to further aviation's decarbonisation. The fuel was previously used in motor racing. Future Cassio aircraft models aim for both commercial and utility purposes, using innovative hybrid-electric propulsion systems to decrease emissions and increase sustainability. The Cassio 330's inaugural flight is anticipated this year.
Japanese eVTOL developer SkyDrive has secured a pre-order for 50 SKYDRIVE eVTOLs from South Korea's Solyu Company. This follows earlier orders from the US and Vietnam. SkyDrive and Solyu aim to tackle Korea's traffic congestion using eVTOL technology in collaboration with the Korean government and Suzuki.
Joby Aviation is set to establish its eVTOL production facility in Dayton, Ohio, the historic site of the Wright brothers' first flight. With support from Ohio and major backers like Toyota, the company aims for full-scale eVTOL production by 2025, potentially creating 2,000 jobs and producing 500 eVTOLs annually.
German firm Volocopter is partnering with Houston's Bristow Group to introduce its VoloCity eVTOLs to the U.S. market. They'll compete with Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation, with plans for Paris 2024 Olympic flights and EASA certification aimed for 2024.
Lilium is collaborating with aerostructures expert Aciturri to assemble its six-passenger eVTOL's fuselages in Spain. Targeting a crewed flight in 2024, the Lilium Jet aims for type certification in 2025 and deliveries in 2026.
AFWERX and BETA Technologies began construction of the first military electric aircraft charging station at Duke Field, Florida. Set to complete by October 13, 2023, this Level 3 fast charger can charge electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in minutes.
Toulouse-based Beyond Aero is developing a hydrogen-powered business jet, challenging battery limitations. They're testing an 85 kW hydrogen system, planning an 800-nautical-mile range jet, seating eight. Founders anticipate hydrogen's advantages over full electrification, though refuelling infrastructure poses challenges.
Airbus, Barclays, and Saudi's Neom are backing ZeroAvia's hydrogen propulsion funding round. The start-up plans hydrogen-fueled regional airliners, targeting a 19-seat aircraft by 2025. Airbus seeks similar tech for larger 200-passenger aircraft by 2035.
Universal Hydrogen has gained the FAA's initial approval for hydrogen conversion of the ATR 72 aircraft. The company aims to create a hydrogen aviation network and has flight tests planned for 2025.
Panasonic is introducing EverVolt, a home battery system storing solar energy for 24/7 access. They unveiled powerful solar modules with high-efficiency ratings. The battery system is versatile, supporting both DC and AC coupling.
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