Greener Jet Fuel?
This weekend is one of the busiest for the airline industry. Flights home (or, if you’re lucky, somewhere exotic) for the holidays help make aviation responsible for about 3% of global carbon emissions. But future holiday flights could be getting greener. Researchers in Sweden have discovered a molecule that could help make jet fuel up to 30% more efficient.
The molecule was discovered by a team at the Royal Institute of Technology‘s laboratories and is made up of just nitrogen and oxygen. The scientists believe it could be used as a replacement for some of the large amounts of toxic chemicals — like concentrated hydrochloric acid — which make up a large part of today’s solid rocket fuels.
For every 10% of increased efficiency in rocket fuel you can double the weight capacity of the vessel, so a 30% increase in efficiency would seriously boost the amount of weight a rocket could carry, or could seriously decrease the amount of fuel needed for a single launch.
Earlier this year, we profiled the efforts of Vermont’s own Heritage Aviation in a OneDegreeTV webisode. The Burlington-based company is the greenest general aviation facility in the country. As Heritage CEO Christopher Hill explained, planes are engineered to be highly efficient but are, of course, energy intensive. Heritage is addressing aviation’s impact on the ground- with a mix of measures including renewable energy (radiant solar water, wind turbine, solar panels), permeable pavement, a green roof, an all-electric fleet of ground vehicles, smart lighting and more. The next frontier, Hill acknowledges, is greener air travel, and this latest scientific discovery could be a game-changer.