NREL's Fuels and Combustion Research Enables a Cleaner Aviation Sector To Take Flight (Text Version)

This is the text version of the video NREL's Fuels and Combustion Research Enables a Cleaner Aviation Sector to Take Flight.

This video explains how NREL researchers are helping U.S. airlines develop and validate new, net-zero-carbon fuels designed to slash carbon emissions.

[Intercom voice]

Now boarding for Sustainable Flight 477 with service from Golden, Colorado.

[Narrator speaks]

Aviation currently represents 8% of U.S transportation-related emissions. As more people and goods take flight, carbon dioxide—a major greenhouse gas and airplane emission—is expected to triple by 2050 unless action is taken.

Unlike most on-road vehicles, long-distance commercial planes cannot be fully electrified. Even with the most powerful batteries, these types of aircraft will continue to require liquid jet fuels. While more efficient jet models continue to be released, having ready access to billions of gallons of sustainable aviation fuel will be critical to helping U.S. airlines meet their goal to slash carbon dioxide emissions in half over the coming decades.

[Text on screen: The aviation industry must produce 3 billion gallons of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) per year by 2030 to meet federal goals. That’s equivalent to 1 hour of water flowing over Niagara Falls!]

Commercializing reliable, effective net-zero-carbon fuels requires a sophisticated understanding of how fuel properties impact engine combustion. This is particularly important for aviation fuels, where plane safety is intimately connected to fuel performance, and there is no margin for error.

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, are taking on this challenge by applying their proven fuels and combustion science expertise to advance the understanding of new aviation fuels and their impact on performance.

Using an innovative combination of fuel property measurements, molecular-level chemistry models, and high-performance computing simulations, NREL identifies cleaner, more efficient, and cost-competitive solutions for this sector.

To predict the performance of a fuel in an airplane, our scientists use detailed simulations to study a turbine engine’s combustion chamber, where fuel is injected, mixed with air, and burned to drive the turbines that power the aircraft. It is here where chemical and physical properties unique to each new proposed fuel will affect engine performance and the production of air pollutants.

Leveraging these novel high-performance computing capabilities, NREL is developing methods to assess whether a new drop-in fuel candidate can pass performance, health, and safety qualifications to be certified for use.

NREL’s partnerships with leading industry partners and government organizations help validate optimal fuel candidates and provides confidence that new fuels will qualify for commercialization.

From accelerating market-ready sustainable fuels to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving safety, NREL is enabling a cleaner aviation sector to take flight.

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