The LAE fuels team aims to identify and characterize new fuel technologies with the potential to power the future of air transportation.
Rapid growth in global aviation activity corresponds to an expected doubling or tripling of fuel burn by mid-century. The continued use of conventional fossil fuel-derived fuels to satisfy this demand will have an increasingly detrimental impact on the climate and on local air quality. New aviation fuel production or processing techniques may hold promise to mitigate these impacts. However, many of these technologies are in the early stages of development. This means that, in many cases, the environmental and economic effects of using new fuel technologies to satisfy aviation’s energy demands have not been sufficiently quantified, or are not well understood.
The fuels team at LAE seeks to advance scientific understanding of new aviation fuel technologies by pursuing research in three specific areas:
- Quantifying the environmental and economic performance of nascent and emerging fuel technologies at the process level. For example, the methods of life cycle and techno-economic assessment (LCA and TEA, respectively) are applied to evaluate the impacts of fuel production technologies such as biomass-derived aviation fuels, electro-fuels derived from CO2 and electrical energy, and refining operations that improve the characteristics of petroleum-derived fuels, among others.
- Improving methods for technology assessment. For example, LCA and TEA results incorporate Monte Carlo analysis to quantify uncertainty and risk, and system-level assessments quantify the non-linearities and feedbacks of large-scale technology adoption that may not otherwise be captured in process-level analyses.
- Informing aviation policy-making. Members of the LAE fuels team serve as Technical Experts to the International Civil Aviation Organization Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection (ICAO CAEP) Alternative Fuels Task Force, which is responsible for determining how alternative aviation fuels will be treated under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
Detailed results of past work can be found here.