Biofuels get boost

Two projects aimed at reducing the environmental impact of jet fuel and its reliance on oil are being led by a leading academic from Princeton University, US.


Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Fred Dryer, will lead a project funded by the US Air Force focused on developing computational and kinetic models that accurately simulate the burning of jet fuel. He will also be developing jet fuels with near-zero net greenhouse gas emissions in another project funded by NetJets, a business jet company.


‘In order to make alternative jet fuel sources feasible, they need to be compatible with petroleum and produce similar combustion performance,’ said Dryer. ‘This will only be possible if we fully understand how petroleum and alternative fuels burn and design engines based on this fundamental knowledge.’


The first project will attempt to understand the burning of jet fuel, which typically consists of hundreds of thousands of molecular structures that behave in a variety of ways. This will be done by developing models of ‘surrogate fuel’. These models use only a few types of molecular structures as surrogates for the larger whole. Dryer previously developed similar models for gasoline which are now being used by the automotive industry.


This project is one of only ten Multi-disciplinary University Research Intiatives (MURI) funded by the US Air Force this year.


The second project aims to investigate alternative fuels including a combination of biofuel and coal. This combination, known as synfuels, would provide fuel with near-zero emissions while reducing the problems biofuels cause such as the need for large amounts of land to grow the material.

‘There is no doubt that developing feasible alternatives to petroleum for the aviation industry will be long and expensive process,’ Dryer added. ‘And success, in the form of an enduring solution, will be priceless.’