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January 2008 edition

Airframers step up the search for commercially viable clean aviation fuels

The global aircraft industry's commitment to producing commercially viable alternative fuels has never been stronger. It is being driven by the commercial necessity to mitigate the effects of high oil prices and environmental pressures to reduce carbon footprints, as well as heightened US concerns about being economically reliant on petroleum imports. In addition, increasing resources are being channelled into developing lighter and more efficient aircraft that use less fuel. Airbus, for instance, says the A380 is a prime example.

Experts predict that alternate fuels will make up a much larger percentage of jet fuels in the next ten to 50 years (see Alternate fuels for use in commercial aircraft). The aircraft of the future may use a blend of bio-fuels and synthetic fuels.

Francis Couillard, vp environment policies for European affairs with Safran, points out: "The introduction of an alternative fuel will obviously need full coordination between fuel companies, aircraft and engine manufacturers, research labs and authorities."

Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Qatar Airways and Qatar Petroleum are co-operating in a drive to develop synthetic jet fuels (see Research focuses on 'drop in' replacements).

Couillard points out: "For obvious safety reasons, aviation fuel has to match very stringent specifications including heating values, thermal stability, critical temperatures, spray and viscosity capacities. It must also be chemically compatible with fuel system materials at aircraft and ....

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