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All of the aircraft, researchers and flight operations people who made ACCESS II happen. Credits: NASA/Tom Tschida

Using biofuels to help power jet engines reduces particle emissions in their exhaust by as much as 50 to 70 percent, according to a new study that bodes well for airline economics and Earth’s atmosphere. The findings are the result of a cooperative international research program led by NASA and involving agencies from Germany and Canada, and are detailed in a study published in the journal Nature (http://rdcu.be/p699).

Our flight tests collected information about the effects of alternative fuels on engine performance, emissions and aircraft-generated contrails – essentially, human-made clouds - at altitudes flown by commercial airliners. Contrails are produced by hot aircraft engine exhaust mixing with the cold air that is typical at cruise altitudes several miles above Earth’s surface, and are composed primarily of water in the form of ice crystals. Researchers are interested in contrails because they create clouds that would not normally form in the atmosphere, and are believed to influence Earth’s environment. The alternative fuels tested reduced those emissions. That’s important because contrails have a larger impact on Earth’s atmosphere than all the aviation-related carbon dioxide emissions since the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers.

Researchers plan on continuing these studies to understand the benefits of replacing current fuels in aircraft with biofuels.

 

Original article appears at: http://go.nasa.gov/2n0uxRC