18. March 2021
Climate-friendly flight

Avi­a­tion lead­ers launch first in-flight 100 per­cent sus­tain­able-fu­el emis­sions study on a com­mer­cial pas­sen­ger jet

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Aeronautics
Refuelling the Airbus A350-900
Re­fu­elling the Air­bus A350-900
Image 1/3, Credit: ©Airbus/S. Ramadier

Refuelling the Airbus A350-900

In Toulouse, the Air­bus A350-900 is re­fu­elled with 100 per­cent sus­tain­able avi­a­tion fu­el for its first flight.
The Falcon takes off on its mission
The Fal­con takes off on its mis­sion
Image 2/3, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The Falcon takes off on its mission

The Fal­con flights help to bet­ter anal­yse the cur­rent­ly large­ly clean at­mo­sphere, which is on­ly slight­ly pol­lut­ed with emis­sions from in­dus­try and trans­port, in­clud­ing avi­a­tion. This gives re­searchers a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty to bet­ter un­der­stand the ef­fects of in­creased emis­sions pri­or to the Coro­n­avirus lock­down.
Testing the cloud probes on the Falcon 20E
Test­ing the cloud probes on the Fal­con 20E
Image 3/3, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

Testing the cloud probes on the Falcon 20E

The cloud probes of the DLR re­search air­craft Fal­con 20E, which mea­sure phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of ice crys­tals in con­den­sa­tion trails dur­ing flight, are test­ed be­fore a flight.

A partnership of aerospace specialists has launched the world's first in-flight emissions study using 100 percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on a wide-body commercial passenger aircraft. Airbus, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), Rolls-Royce and SAF producer Neste have teamed up to start the pioneering 'Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels' (ECLIF3) project looking into the effects of 100 percent SAF on aircraft emissions and performance. Findings from the study – to be carried out on the ground and in the air using an Airbus A350-900 aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines – will support efforts currently underway at Airbus and Rolls-Royce to ensure the air transport sector is ready for the large-scale use of SAF as part of the wider initiative to decarbonise the industry.

DLR research aircraft flies in the exhaust gas stream

Fuel-clearance engine tests, including a first flight to check operational compatibility of using 100 percent SAF with the aircraft's systems, started at Airbus' facilities in Toulouse, France, this week. These will be followed by the ground-breaking flight-emissions tests due to start in April and resuming in the Autumn, using DLR’s Falcon 20-E 'chase plane' to carry out measurements to investigate the emissions impact of using SAF. Meanwhile, further ground tests measuring particulate-matter emissions are set to indicate the environmental impact of using SAF on airport operations.

Both the flight and the ground tests will compare emissions from the use of 100 percent SAF produced with HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) technology against those from fossil kerosene and low-sulphur fossil kerosene. The SAF will be provided by Neste, a leading worldwide supplier of sustainable aviation fuel. Additional measurement and analysis for the characterisation of the particulate-matter emissions during the ground testing will be delivered by the UK’s University of Manchester and the National Research Council of Canada.

SAF as an important contribution to climate-friendly flying

"SAF is a vital part of Airbus’ ambition to decarbonise the air transport industry and we are working closely with a number of partners to ensure a sustainable future for air travel," said Steven Le Moing, New Energy Programme Manager at Airbus. "Aircraft can currently only operate using a maximum 50 percent blend of SAF and fossil kerosene; this exciting collaboration will not only provide insight into how gas turbine engines function using 100 percent SAF with a view to certification, but also identify the potential emissions reductions and environmental benefits of using such fuels in flight on a commercial aircraft."

Patrick Le Clercq, ECLIF Project Manager at DLR, said: "By investigating 100 percent SAF, we are taking our research on fuel design and the climate impact of air transport to a new level. In previous research campaigns, we were already able to demonstrate the soot-reduction potential of between 30 and 50 percent blends of alternative fuels, and we hope this new campaign will show that this potential is now even greater. DLR has already conducted extensive research on analytics and modelling as well as performing ground and flight tests using alternative fuels with the Airbus A320 ATRA research aircraft in 2015 and in 2018 together with NASA."

Simon Burr, Director of Product Development and Technology at Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace, added: "In our post-COVID-19 world, people will want to connect again but do so sustainably. For long-distance travel, we know this will involve the use of gas turbines for decades to come. SAF is essential to the decarbonisation of that travel and we actively support the ramp-up of its availability to the air transport industry. This research is essential to support our commitment to understanding and enabling the use of 100 percent SAF as a low-emissions solution."

Jonathan Wood, Neste's Vice President Europe, Renewable Aviation, added: "We are delighted to contribute to this project to measure the extensive benefits of SAF compared with fossil jet fuel and provide the data to support the use of SAF at higher concentrations than 50 percent. Independently verified analysis has shown 100 percent Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel delivering an up to 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil jet fuel use when all life-cycle emissions are taken into account; this study will clarify the additional benefits from the use of SAF."

About DLR

DLR is the Federal Republic of Germany's research centre for aeronautics and space. We conduct research and development activities in the fields of aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security and digitalisation. Climate, mobility and technology are changing globally. DLR uses the expertise of its 55 research institutes and facilities to develop solutions to these challenges. Our 10,000 employees share a mission – to explore Earth and space and develop technologies for a sustainable future. In doing so, DLR contributes to strengthening Germany’s position as a prime location for research and industry.

About Airbus

Airbus pioneers sustainable aerospace for a safe and united world. The Company constantly innovates to provide efficient and technologically advanced solutions in aerospace, defence, and connected services. In commercial aircraft, Airbus offers modern and fuel-efficient airliners and associated services. Airbus is also a European leader in defence and security and one of the world's leading space businesses. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions and services worldwide.

About Rolls-Royce Holdings plc

Rolls-Royce pioneers the power that matters to connect, power and protect society. We have pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in our operations by 2030 [excluding product testing] and joined the UN Race to Zero campaign in 2020, affirming our ambition to play a fundamental role in enabling the sectors in which we operate achieve net zero carbon by 2050.

About Neste

Neste (NESTE, Nasdaq Helsinki) creates solutions for combating climate change and accelerating a shift to a circular economy. We refine waste, residues and innovative raw materials into renewable fuels and sustainable feedstock for plastics and other materials. We are the world’s leading producer of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, developing chemical recycling to combat the plastic waste challenge. We aim at helping customers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with our renewable and circular solutions by at least 20 million tons annually by 2030.

DLR – research for climate-neutral air transport

The consequences of climate change demand action for climate-neutral air transport. This involves new technologies that will also ensure global mobility in the future. With its 25 institutes and facilities in the field of aeronautics research, DLR is driving this change forward with technologies for sustainable, environmentally compatible flight. Expertise from DLR's research programmes in space, energy and transport will also play an important role in this.

DLR has systems expertise in aeronautics research and sees itself in the role of an architect. DLR’s goal is 'emission-free air transport', in order to achieve the climate targets that have been set. In doing so, the results of research must flow directly into the development of new products.

There is a considerable need for research and development on the path to climate-compatible air transport, which requires continuous funding and support. Much of this needs to be researched at a fundamental level, tested in practice and approved. DLR can do this with large-scale facilities such as its research aircraft, propulsion demonstrators and large-scale computers. In 2020, DLR published the white paper 'Zero Emission Aviation' together with the German Aerospace Industries Association (Bundesverband der Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtindustrie; BDLI). DLR is currently working on a Zero Emission strategy.

Contact
  • Falk Dambowsky
    Ed­i­tor
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3959
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
    Contact
  • Patrick Le Clercq
    Head of De­part­ment Mul­ti­phase Flow and Al­ter­na­tive Fu­els
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Com­bus­tion Tech­nol­o­gy
    Telephone: +49 711 6862-441
    Fax: +49 711 6862-578
    Pfaffenwaldring 38-40
    70569 Stuttgart
    Contact
  • Matthieu Duvelleroy
    Air­bus
    Telephone: +33 (0)6 29 43 15 64
    Contact
  • Bill O’Sullivan
    Rolls Royce
    Telephone: +44 796 87 67 172
    Contact
  • Aeron Haworth
    Air­bus UK
    Telephone: +44 (0)7711 063752
    Contact
  • Media Service
    Neste
    Telephone: +358 50 458 5076
    Contact

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