Although still in its initial phases, we are facing a fuel crisis that is caused by the excessive use of fossil fuels—a raw material that has taken millions of years to form beneath the Earth’s surface. Apart from the distinct reduction in fossil fuels, the pollution and carbon footprint caused by the use of these fuels, has led to a global problem of climate change.
The aviation industry is one of the largest fuel consumers on the planet and researchers have been looking for a way to reduce this dependency and their immense carbon footprint. To address these problems, numerous ways have been devised to create fuel from waste products, one among them being green diesel, a potential solution. ‘Green diesel’ is a green fuel produced by processing simple vegetable oils, waste cooking oil and animal fats.
Green diesel is different from the biodiesel used for ground transportation at airports and when used on a lifecycle basis in aircrafts, can reduce carbon emissions by over 50 percent, in comparison with fossil fuels. This revolutionary fuel was recently used by Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, who completed a test flight—the world’s first—using green diesel. This step from Boeing is a major breakthrough in weaning the industry away from using fossil fuel and also reducing emissions. In time, it could well lead to more availability and demand for sustainable aviation fuel—in turn, making air travel more affordable as well.
The production capacity of green diesel is 3 billion liters in the US, Europe, and Asia, making it a viable option for the future. But, engineers are not stopping at vegetable oil blends as green diesel. Micro-algae found in seawater and in some freshwater sources were recently found to have a high concentration of components required for production of green fuel with a lower carbon footprint, such as lipids, octane number, and iodine.
For cleaner skies and affordable travelling, scientists have also found an inventive way to use graphene, also used in pencil leads, to harvest hydrogen for fuel cells. The process involves ‘sieving’ hydrogen to react with oxygen in a fuel cell and produce electricity. This method leaves no carbon footprint, and is also affordable, making this option a viable one for clean energy harvesting in aviation.
Much advancement is being made in producing ‘green fuel’ that takes the load off fossil fuels. These fuels are even being used in tandem with other forms of clean energy such as solar and wind energy, using cells placed on aircraft wings, for the most efficient usage. The utilization of clean energy in the aviation industry will definitely cleanse our skies and slow down the harmful effects of climate change.
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