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German Aerospace Center/Lufthansa release high blend-level AJF study

June 16, 2017. Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative & the German Aerospace Centre. Biofuels have the potential to make air transport more climate-friendly and reduce dependency on fossil raw materials, since they are produced using renewable raw materials, such as oil plants, grain, algae and wood. 

Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), together with Lufthansa Technik and the Bundeswehr Research Institute for Materials, Fuels and Lubricants (WIWeB), investigated the chemical and physical properties of particularly promising biofuels. The European Union-funded 'High Biofuel Blends in Aviation' (HBBA) study focused on blends, i.e. mixtures of conventional kerosene with biofuels. The study analysed particularly promising biofuels, according to source, production process and approval status.

Real engine testing

An airliner turbine can cost up to several million euro. Should it be operated using non-certified fuel for research purposes, for example, it may not be reinstalled in an aircraft. This means that bridging the gap between tests on a laboratory scale to actual implementation in an aircraft represents a huge challenge for researchers. For the first time, scientists at the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology now have the opportunity to investigate biofuels on a special test rig at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg, where a dismounted aero-engine is available especially for research purposes. Using this engine, the scientists examined and compared three different fuels: pure biofuel, a blend consisting of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent conventional fuel, as well as conventional kerosene as a reference. 

"This large-scale test showed that the use of blends can improve the carbon footprint in the field of aviation without causing any problems in the engine," summarises Köhler. "Furthermore, with biofuels, we see the potential to reduce the emissions of pollutants in the future." For this reason, the subject is increasingly attracting interest from airlines, aircraft manufacturers, airport operators and local residents. 

Download the HBBA report here.

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Below: A conical flask of "green" jet fuel made from algae. Photographer: Honeywell (], via Wikimedia Commons.