Etihad and Masdar develop new energy efficient cool cargo system as aviation biofuel facility nears completion
Thu 21 Jan 2016 – In collaboration with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Etihad Cargo, the cargo division of Etihad Airways, has launched a new design for a smart, temperature-controlled, sustainable and energy-efficient air cargo container ‘cool dolly’ system. Most airports and ground handlers use diesel-powered dollies with energy-intensive and expensive-to-operate cooling units to transport temperature-sensitive cargo such as pharmaceuticals, livestock and perishable products between the aircraft and cargo warehouse storage compartments. Etihad and its Abu Dhabi International Airport believe the cool dollies will provide them with a competitive advantage. Masdar and Etihad are also collaborating on developing an aquaculture-based aviation biofuel project and a new two-hectare research farm in Masdar City is due to be completed in March.
The new hybrid cool dolly incorporates the use of innovative thermoelectric module technologies, modified compressor units and a custom-made power bank that can be attached to solar panels for sustainable recharging. Etihad says the design will ensure the temperature can be regulated to meet the needs of temperature-sensitive cargo while minimising power consumption.
A team of Masdar Institute researchers, including students, is handling the technical design and testing of the cool dolly with input from Etihad Cargo to develop a design that meets the airline’s technical requirements and operational constraints.
“We are committed to providing our customers with innovative and sustainably-designed cargo solutions, and working with Masdar Institute has helped enormously in developing a specialised temperature-controlled dolly that protects sensitive products from the heat and harsh weather conditions we sometimes face here in the UAE,” said David Kerr, VP Etihad Cargo.
The Etihad Cargo Innovation Department is also collaborating with Masdar Institute on other related research activities, including adapting advanced shock protection material for cargo boxes and testing advanced thermal reduction coatings for Etihad Cargo’s Sky Stables equine transportation service.
“We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Etihad Airways in undertaking these research projects aimed at supporting their operations with novel solutions,” said Dr Steve Griffiths, VP Research, Masdar Institute. “Our research platform integrates energy and system engineering in a manner that we believe can make a meaningful contribution in transport and logistics operations in the UAE and overseas.”
Meanwhile, the two-hectare farm and research facility nearing completion at Masdar City will experiment using seawater and organic waste to help grow native halophytes (Salicornia) for generating aviation biofuel for Etihad Airways, as well producing fish and shrimps for food. The farm will consist of eight fields where Salicornia plants will be grown on nutrient-rich discharge water from aquaculture ponds.
The Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS) pilot project by the Sustainable Biofuel Research Consortium – which is supported by Masdar, Etihad, Boeing, GE and Safran – is expected to last for three to five years with the aim of scaling up to 200 hectares in size for commercial production. Last month, the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water announced it would collaborate on the project and supply feedstock in the form of fish fingerlings and mangrove seedlings, as well as technical expertise.
“This game-changing research places Abu Dhabi at the centre of a global movement to advance technologies to produce sustainable, commercially-viable bioenergy,” said Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, Interim Provost, Masdar Institute. “Considering 97% of the world’s water is salt water and about 20% of the world’s land desert, this approach turns a land and water resource scarcity on its head. Already, this research is attracting significant interest from other water and arable land constrained countries.”