The University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) has joined forces with the US Air Force Research Laboratory to develop a process to create jet fuel from coal and biomass.
Funded by a $10m grant, researchers at the new Alternative Aerospace Fuels Research Facility plan to design and construct a coal and biomass gasifier for the production of synthesis gas, and hope to have it up and running early in 2010.
The research-scale gasifier, capable of producing up to 15 gallons of jet fuel per day from coal and biomass, will be sufficient for researchers to study the properties of the fuel at engine and aircraft manufacturing companies worldwide, in addition to those at the facility.
In addition, the researchers aim to investigate ways to create jet fuel with a carbon footprint well below that produced by current petroleum fuel refineries.
‘We’ve already demonstrated that jet fuels produced from synthesis gas burn cleanly and have greatly reduced soot emissions compared with fuels produced from petroleum,’ said Dilip Ballal, head of UDRI’s Energy and Environmental Engineering division.
In a longer-term goal, the researchers hope to minimise the number of additives needed to meet the required performance specifications for jet fuel.
Current jet fuel can include up to six additives for anti-icing and other functions, Ballal said. ‘But the need for these additives creates a major logistics headache on the battlefield as well as for commercial operators that travel to remote locations. In addition, they must be procured from highly specialised vendors, which makes them expensive. We hope to develop fuel that will require fewer additives and still perform well, especially in extreme hot and cold temperatures.’
Because the composition of coal varies depending on where in the country it is mined, the fuels research facility will be equipped to produce fuel from various types of coal. The gasifier itself will be designed for optimal performance using Ohio coal, which has relatively high levels of sulphur.