NASA study analyzes the impact of sustainable aviation fuel on contrails



NASA, along with Boeing, United Airlines and other partners, is researching how sustainable aviation fuels can reduce the global warming effects of contrails.

NASA is supporting test flights for Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program, an effort to analyze how SAF benefits the environment. The researchers conducted flight tests on the same aircraft, comparing flights powered by 100% SAF to flights using conventional fuel. The team is also working overall to measure contrail formation from each fuel and determine whether the use of SAF reduces contrail formation.

Sustainable aviation fuels are biofuels made from raw and waste resources that can reduce emissions by 80% compared to traditional jet fuel. Many airlines are working on using SAF to reduce emissions, and it is already being used on some aircraft today.

Beyond the known environmental benefits of SAF, researchers are now investigating whether they can also reduce the environmental impact of contrails. Contrails are trails of condensation caused by aircraft engine exhaust and are known to have a warming effect on the environment. While some studies indicate that alternative jet fuels may be able to reduce this impact, current research projects are working to quantify the benefits of SAF and further explore its scope. Masu.

Additional efforts to address the environmental impact of aviation, contrail

Aviation is considered a difficult sector to reduce, currently accounting for around 2% of global emissions, so the industry is seeing many innovations aimed at reducing this impact.

Google recently announced an artificial intelligence-driven tool used to reduce contrails in research studies. By conducting test flights based on an AI-derived model aimed at avoiding specific altitudes, the pilot was able to reduce contrails by 54% of her height. The study also found that contrails can be avoided on a large scale with minimal amounts of additional fuel, making them a cost-effective solution to mitigating global warming.

Investment in SAF has also increased in recent years, including expanding oilseed production needed to develop alternative fuels. The Minnesota Sustainable Aviation Fuels Hub, the first large-scale SAF hub in the United States, is also expected to be operational as early as 2025, with the aim of expanding domestic SAF production.

As SAF is still a relatively new innovation, it is reported that further efforts are required for widespread commercial use. Based on the results of NASA’s research partnership, SAF may prove to have additional environmental benefits for airlines looking to introduce its use in the coming years.

The study results are expected to be published within a year.

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