Burning biofuels

Pratt & Whitney Canada is leading a research effort to investigate how biofuels might power small and medium size aero engines.


Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) is leading a research effort to investigate how biofuels might power small and medium size aero engines.


The company is evaluating the feasibility of using “second generation” biofuels that originate from sources that do not compete with human food sources. These could include jatropha and algae derived biofuels, as well as biobutanol to power aircraft engines.


The objectives of the four-year project include identifying and assessing appropriate biofuels, studying their effect on engine components such as combustors and fuel systems, developing appropriate technologies and design changes to accommodate them, and conducting tests comparing current jet fuels with first generation ethanol, as well as second generation biofuels.


The fuel project is one of several initiatives announced recently by the governments of Canada and India under a joint research collaboration agreement in the field of science and technology.


The Canadian portion is being funded through the International Science and Technology Partnerships Program.


P&WC is managing the project and dedicating resources at its research centres in Longueuil, Quebec and Mississauga, Ontario to look into engine components and materials changes. Infotech Enterprises and two major Indian oil companies will share in the effort.


Four Canadian institutions – McGill University, Laval University, Ryerson University and National Research Council Canada – are also participating, along with the Indian Institute of Technology, Science and Petroleum.


P&WC has previously undertaken research into alternative jet fuel blends using shale and tar sand oil derived products, as well as hydrogen.


‘Our goal is to develop technologies for fuel flexible gas turbine engines, which can operate with a variety of biofuels and mixtures using the same hardware,’ said Sam Sampath, manager and senior fellow, combustion engineering and emissions control at P&WC.