NASA signs agreements with German and Canadian partners to test impact of alternative fuels at altitude
NASA's HU-25 research aircraft measures chemical components from a DC-8's exhaust generated by a 50/50 blended biofuel (photo: NASA)
Mon 14 Apr 2014 – NASA has signed separate agreements with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to conduct a series of joint flight tests to study the atmospheric effects of emissions from jet engines burning alternative fuels. The Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions (ACCESS II) flights are due to begin on May 7 from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The programme will be the latest in a series of NASA ground and flight tests that began in 2009 to study emissions and contrails formation from new blends of renewable aviation fuels. ACCESS I tests showed that such blends may substantially reduce emissions of black carbon, sulphates and organics, says NASA. ACCESS II will gather additional data, with an emphasis on studying contrail formation.
NRC has conducted its own flight and ground tests of alternative fuels, including a flight in 2012 that was powered by an unblended biofuel derived from a Canadian-grown industrial oilseed crop, the first-ever flight of a civilian jet aircraft to fly on 100% biofuel (see article). DLR has undertaken extensive research of the climate impact of conventional jet fuels at altitude, including the formation of cirrus clouds from contrails.
“Partnering with our German and Canadian colleagues allows us to combine our expertise and resources as we work together to solve the challenges common to the global aviation community, such as understanding emission characteristics from the use of alternative fuels, which presents a great potential for significant reductions in harmful emissions,” commented Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Research.
In the ACCESS I tests, a heavily instrumented NASA HU-25 Guardian aircraft measured chemical components from a larger DC-8 exhaust generated by a 50/50 mix of conventional jet fuel and a plant-derived biofuel. Under ACCESS II, NASA’s DC-8 and HU-25, DLR’s Falcon 20-E5 and NRC’s CT-133 research aircraft will conduct flight tests in which the DC-8’s engines will burn a mix of different fuel blends, while the Falcon and CT-133 will measure emissions and observe contrail formation.
“We are very pleased to be performing joint test flights for the first time, and thus set an example by addressing pressing research questions in global aviation together,” said Rolf Henke, DLR Executive Board member responsible for aeronautics research.
Within NASA, ACCESS II is a multi-centre project involving researchers at Armstrong, the Langley Research Center in Virginia and the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The project will support a NASA strategy to enable the transition of the aviation industry to alternative fuels and low-carbon propulsion systems.
The agency says it will share its findings with the 24 member nations that make up the International Forum for Aviation Research (IFAR), which it currently chairs, and which both DLR and NRC are participating members.