Biofuel flights one step closer

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The Independent Online

A consortium led by aircraft manufacturer Airbus has completed the world's first flight using pure biofuel from algae at the ILA Berlin Air Show.

On June 8, a Diamond Aircraft DA42 New Generation plane powered by 100 percent algae biofuel took part in the flying demonstration, marking the first time that the technology has been used to power a flight.

The success of the test is likely to further encourage the research and development efforts of engineers keen to exploit biofuels to reduce the environmental impact of flying.

Certain types of algae contain high amounts of extractable oil which Airbus-owner EADS says provides a higher energy content than traditional jet fuel, with the advantage that they can be grown on poor quality land or polluted water.

Exhaust gas quality measurements indicated that the biofuel from algae contained eight times less hydrocarbons than traditional kerosene derived from crude oil.

The group, which is led by EADS, also says that the algae biofuel produces up to 40 percent less nitrogen oxides and far less sulfur oxides (around 10 ppm sulfur oxides compared to 600 ppm in conventional jet fuel) due to the very low nitrogen and sulfur content of the biofuel compared to fossil fuel.

Algae are seen as one of the most promising sources of biofuel, as they requires far less space for cultivation than comparable sources such as jatropha or camelina crops.

For the past two years, airlines have ploughed ahead with tests for all three, with Air New Zealand, KLM, Continental and JAL all trialing the sources individually or in combination with each other and - until now - in combination with regular jet fuel.

The ILA Berlin Air Show runs from June 8-13 in Berlin, Germany.