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The EU Is Developing New Aviation Concepts to Reduce CO2 Emissions

Posted September 16, 2018

The European Union (EU) set what could be seen as a lofty goal. But, if successful, it’ll have a dramatic impact on the Earth’s sustainability.

The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer by 75 percent by 2050. Collectively, the EU wants to make Europe a world leader in sustainable aviation while still meeting the needs of travelers.

Image credit: Negative Space via Pexels, CC0 Public Domain

The Exploration of Radical Engine Technologies

The people involved in this initiative know it won’t be sufficient to primarily take small steps toward the goal. That’s why some of the activities intended to reach it involve developing new motors through the EU-funded ULTIMATE project. The acronym stands for Ultra-Low (E)mission Technology Innovations (f)or Mid-century Aircraft Turbine Engines.

This project seeks to transform today’s ideas into the engines of the future by combining technologies not currently seen in the aviation sector. Four of Europe’s largest engine manufacturers are involved, along with four universities, a technology management company and a research institute.

Project participants determined that more than 80 percent of the heat loss associated with current airplane engines happens because of combustor irreversibility, core exhaust heat and bypass exhaust kinetic energy. But throughout ULTIMATE’s three-year duration, people will work to reduce that percentage.

One possibility involves a composite engine that blends conventional engine combustion technologies with piston engines.

Even today’s most modern aviation engines go through drops in pressure within the combustion chamber, and these drops decrease efficiency. However, if a design instead raised pressure during combustion, efficiency could substantially increase.

There will also be attempts to recycle an airplane’s exhaust air. Energy loss happens because the exhaust air is hundreds of degrees warmer than the ambient air. But the people working on this project believe recycling that air instead of letting it go to waste would cause the kind of improvements that make the EU’s goal possible.

A More Eco-Friendly Way to Move Parts

Most airplanes must receive annual inspections in addition to undergoing periodic maintenance. If the people involved in maintenance uncover problems, it may be necessary to replace parts before the aircraft is ready for the skies again.

Parts also come into play during the initial construction process of an airplane. However, Airbus engineered a sailing vessel to reduce emissions and fuel needs when moving plane components.

That sign of progress is part of an ongoing effort to cut emissions associated with cargo vessels. Although it doesn’t relate to the emissions airplanes produce while operating, it’s an example of how reducing emissions requires a multi-tiered effort.

New Engines Already in the Concept Phase

Plans for the engines mentioned earlier are still in the early stages, but if these new kinds of engines come to pass, they could result in parts that look and function in ways not at all akin to today’s models.

The 2018 Farnborough International Airshow featured eight concepts to give people a peek at what’s in the works.

One involved pre-cooled cores and a pulsed detonation action, both of which decrease the engine’s cooling requirements. Other concepts featured specialized turbofans to increase core-specific power and enhance thermal efficiency as well as two fluid recuperators installed inside an engine’s core to aid in cooling.

Airlines Must Offset Emissions Growth

The EU is looking at other ways to curb airplane emissions too, especially due to the knowledge that they’re a growing concern. A plan called Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) calls on airlines to keep CO2 emissions at 2020 levels. CORSIA applies to all EU countries from 2021-2035.

Airlines have to monitor emissions on all international routes. Plus, they’ll offset emissions by participating in schemes meant to reduce emissions, such as those involving renewable energy. Projected outcomes indicate that CORSIA could offset 80 percent of emissions that go beyond 2020 levels.

Movement in the Right Direction

The public may not notice the effects of these innovative ideas for a while, but on a positive note, the collective attempts of people in the aviation sector show commitment to reducing airplane emissions for the future.

That’s a good thing for this generation as well as for the individuals who live on the planet in upcoming eras.

Written by Kayla Matthews, Productivity Bytes.

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