New Processs Could Allow For 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Last Updated on: 19th October 2022, 11:35 am
A collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Washington State University has opened the door to sustainable aviation fuel. The new processes could allow for 100% sustainable aviation fuel, which would reduce the environmental impacts of aviation.
Jet fuel is a key component of aviation. It makes planes fly and is responsible for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable aviation fuel would reduce these emissions, making aviation more sustainable overall.
The aviation industry is one of the key contributors to climate change, and it is looking for ways to reduce its carbon emissions. A new study from MIT, Washington State University, and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has found a way to use lignin as a path toward a drop-in 100% sustainable aviation fuel.
Lignin makes up the rigid part of plant cell walls. Other plant parts are utilized for biofuels, but lignin has generally been overlooked because of the difficulty in chemically breaking it down and turning it into useful compounds. However, the new process developed by the researchers is able to break down lignin into its constituent molecules, which can then be turned into fuels.
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the aviation industry as airlines pledge to drastically reduce carbon emissions. In 2019, airlines utilized 106 billion gallons of jet fuel worldwide, a figure that is predicted to more than quadruple by 2050. To achieve the industry’s aim of net carbon neutrality over that time period, major deployment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with high blend limits with conventional fuel will be required.
Use Of Lignin As A Blendstock
One major obstacle to the widespread deployment of SAF is the lack of sustainable jet fuel sources. One promising avenue for achieving this goal is the use of lignin as a blendstock. Lignin is a waste product from the paper and pulp industry, and its extraction has previously been shown to be a highly energy-intensive process.
Recently, a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota released a study demonstrating a process they created to extract the oxygen from lignin so that the resultant hydrocarbons may be utilized as a blendstock for jet fuel. The research was recently published in the journal Joule.
New Work Allows The SAF To Have Fuel System Compatibility
Earlier this year, researchers unveiled a new process that could allow for a 100% sustainable aviation fuel. The lignin pathway described in this new work allows the SAF to have fuel system compatibility at higher blend ratios, making it a more viable option for the future of aviation.
Lignin is a recalcitrant material that is typically burned for heat and power or used only in low-value applications. Previous research has yielded lignin oils with high oxygen contents ranging from 27% to 34%. However, to be used as jet fuel that amount must be reduced to less than half-percent.
The lignin pathway described in this new work allows for the SAF to have fuel system compatibility at higher blend ratios, which could make it a more viable option for the future of aviation. In addition, the pathway is sustainable, which is something that the aviation industry is looking for more of.
This new process has the potential to reduce the amount of aviation fuel that needs to be produced, and it could also be used to produce sustainable aviation fuel. The process uses earth-abundant molybdenum carbide as the catalyst, and it is able to reduce the oxygen content of aviation fuel to about 1%. This is a significant step forward, and it could lead to much more sustainable aviation fuel in the future.