NASA's Green Aviation Summit discusses ways to cut toxic NOX gas emissions, sound pollution, and carbon emissions over the next 15 years, while adopting more fuel efficient technologies to save money.  (Source: NASA)
New engines and lightweight materials are among the solutions proposed

Today, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is helping to kick off the Green Aviation Summit at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, California.  The summit is hosting 200 participants in the government, industry, and academia and looks to highlight progress towards solutions to the industry's toughest problems -- fuel efficiency (which directly impacts airlines' profitability), carbon emissions, air traffic noise, and space.

One of the solutions proposed to improve fuel efficiency is to investigate unconventional aircraft designs.  Other options include the increased use of biofuels, designing more efficient engines, or using new lightweight, high-strength materials.

Ames Research Center Director Simon "Pete" Worden speaking to the audience at the summit stated, "As the world travels even more we're going to have a very serious global warming issue, as well as lots of other environmental impacts of aviation."

NASA has proposed that by 2015 aircraft be developed that use 33 percent less fuel than the current most energy efficient models, by 2020 use 50 percent less fuel, and by 2025 use over 50 percent less fuel.  NASA also wants toxic nitric oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions cut 20 percent by 2015, 50 percent by 2020, and better than 50 percent by 2025.

Not all the goals are "green", so to speak, though.  NASA also wants to cut aviation noise levels to one sixth of their current level by 2020.  Noise pollution is a major concern for citizens living near U.S. airports.

Talk of global warming, particularly in light of recent revised melting figures, is sure to provoke criticism from some and praise from others.  However, most would agree that cutting NOX emissions -- which are toxic and cause health issues -- is desirable.  Likewise, most can agree that cutting noise pollution is a good idea.

Additionally, fuel efficiency gains potentially can be a smart business plan, given the massive yearly fuel costs of the airline industry.

Of course, the goals of the summit are overly ambitious and achieving them in an economical manner will be a serious challenge.  Still it's good to see some of the brightest minds in the industry striving to reinvent and improve one of man's most impressive engineering marvels – the modern aircraft.

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