New aviation fuel produced from wood waste

The performance of a new lignin-based jet fuel is under investigation. It could be blended with other biofuels to completely replace petroleum derivatives.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) has kickstarted the decarbonization of aviation.

But before they replace fossil alternatives 100%, industrial research must solve certain technical challenges.

SAFs must demonstrate specific physical and chemical properties, as well as full compatibility with turbine materials. These requirements have so far limited biofuels to a maximum volume of 50% in a blend.

An international team of researchers working on a new aviation fuel produced from wood waste achieved a breakthrough today. In detail, the team analyzed the performance of a biofuel created by Washington State University (WSU) from lignin, an organic polymer present in certain plant cells.

Using a series of tests and predictive models, scientists investigated fuel properties critical to the operation of jet engines, such as seal swell, density, performance and emissions.

When we tested our lignin-based jet fuel, we saw some interesting results. We discovered that it not only had a higher density and energy content, but that it could also be a real alternative.

Bin Yang, professor at WSU and author of the study.

Traditional fuels used in aircraft are complex mixtures of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons. The latter is believed to contribute more to the climate impact of aviation than carbon dioxide. At the same time, they exhibit properties that are difficult to reproduce, such as high energy density.

Yang developed a patented process that converts lignin from agricultural residues into aviation fuel of biological origin.

And the result is greater efficiency, lower emissions and lower costs.

The fact that these molecules exhibit joint volume swelling comparable to aromatics opens the door to the development of virtually aromatic-free aviation fuels with very low emissions and ultra-high performance characteristics.

ben yang

More information: www.sciencedirect.com (English text).

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