How can the aviation industry adopt cleaner and greener fuel?

14th October 2019
Lanna Deamer

The University of Birmingham is leading a new research consortium that will tackle climate change by investigating the barriers and benefits to the UK aviation industry adopting low carbon synthetic fuel. The NewJet Network+ is one of five new groups announced by the Government looking at ways of removing the obstacles and address the challenges of decarbonising transport in the UK.

Supported with £5m of funding, the networks will bring together expertise from across academia and industry to lay the groundwork for the rolling out of more eco-friendly technologies across road, rail, air and sea transport.

Partnering the University of Birmingham in the NewJet+ Network are Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Sheffield, Aston University, Cardiff University and Heriot-Watt University, along with Air BP, the Department for Transport, and Renovare Fuels.

Aviation and aerospace contribute more than £22bn a year to the UK economy and adopting low carbon technologies, particularly low carbon synthetic fuel, is recognised as crucial to the future of the industry. The network will explore the barriers to adopting these new fuels, such as stakeholder confidence and infrastructure, as well as the benefits, including reducing CO2 and importantly the non-CO2 emissions performance, which also contribute to the environmental impact of aviation.

The project will also explore the potential for broadening the fuel specification to reduce the environmental impact of producing these fuels, and will study the behaviour and performance of the cleaner, greener fuel in flight.

Simon Blakey, NewJet+ Project Lead at the University of Birmingham, explained: “Many synthetic fuels are produced to mirror closely the properties and performance of traditional petroleum-based fuels and they could offer huge benefits to the industry if this restriction were able to be relaxed. Clearly there are challenges to adopting these new products and we need to understand these before the UK is able to deliver a low carbon future for the industry.”

The NewJet+ Network will begin its activities in November and will run until 2022. Approximately two-thirds of the £1m funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which is part of UK Research and Innovation, will be used to fund smaller flexible research projects.

Announcing the new networks, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Bringing together some of the brightest minds from all corners of the UK, these transport networks will boost the development of technologies that have the potential to clean up our transport systems - so we can cycle, drive and even fly into a greener future.”

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