Print 15 comment(s) - last by Omega215D.. on Jul 22 at 11:37 AM

Lufthansa has first commercial biofuel flight

Major European airliner Lufthansa has taken its biofuel efforts to the next level after launching a six-month 50/50 fuel-biofuel mix test in European flights. 

The new "hydrotreated" jet fuel is based from wood chips and inedible plants, such as different types of grass.  The use of food-based crops negatively leads to issues with rising food costs that plague U.S. and European consumers.    

The new blend of regular jet fuel and biosynthetic food is now used by the airline company's Airbus A321 aircraft.  Beginning last week, flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt had a 50/50 mix in one engine with the other engine running on regular jet fuel.  Passengers are unable to notice any difference how the aircraft flies.

Government support has increased demand for ethanol, so corn crops have been in high demand since 2005.  

Lufthansa is interested in studying long-term engine health as they try to make a transition from regular jet fuel to biofuels.

Although Lufthansa believes this new biofuel fuel blend will drastically reduce CO2 emissions, some German environmental groups criticized the move.  According to one German environmental group, they believe Lufthansa and other airliners traveling such short distances still is bad for the environment -- and try to promote train travel as a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Air France conducted a commercial biofuel flight in June, with the Boeing 737-800 using recycled cooking oil instead of jet fuel.  Airliners are anxious to avoid investing in jet fuel that greatly fluctuates in cost, and a more eco-friendly option is very welcome.

Biofuels remain a major interest by the government and private sector, especially among airlines trying to become more eco-friendly and reduce costs.  Airline biofuels consist of materials ranging from grass and algae to organic waste that is processed into biofuel that can be used for transportation and vehicles.

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RE: Interim Solution
By quiksilvr on 7/21/2011 8:56:58 AM , Rating: 2
I think for short flights electric propeller planes make sense (DC to New York, LA to Phoenix, etc) and for longer flights these biofuels make sense.

I see it totally within the realm of possible to make a 500 mile range propeller plane that can seat 200 people + luggage. The only problem now is that we are relying on archaic weather prediction software for flights. It's in development for more advances but, as with anything, takes time.

RE: Interim Solution
By corduroygt on 7/21/2011 9:24:43 AM , Rating: 3
Electric NEVER makes sense for anything that's bigger than a model airplane. Batteries are heavy and aircraft are designed to be as light as possible.

RE: Interim Solution
By Samus on 7/21/2011 9:51:00 AM , Rating: 3
The solar plane concepts we've seen are in the right direction, but they are small and slow. I agree with you that it'll be some time before we have compact electric motors that generate as much thrust as a turbine engine in a lightweight avionic package.

RE: Interim Solution
By spread on 7/21/2011 12:48:10 PM , Rating: 2
What about a blimp?

RE: Interim Solution
By Omega215D on 7/22/2011 11:37:01 AM , Rating: 2
Like living in Fringe's alternate universe full of zeppelins using vector thrust engines

RE: Interim Solution
By 91TTZ on 7/21/2011 3:47:50 PM , Rating: 2
It's not about the electric motors. They're plenty powerful. The real problem is the energy storage. Batteries are too heavy to be practical.

For instance, the batteries in electric cars which weigh hundreds of pounds only store the equivalent energy of a few gallons of gas.

RE: Interim Solution
By soydios on 7/21/2011 12:54:11 PM , Rating: 2
Whoever down-rated this guy needs to look up what the energy densities are for batteries and petroleum fuels. He's right, electric isn't widely practical because of the heavy batteries.

RE: Interim Solution
By Solandri on 7/21/2011 2:47:40 PM , Rating: 2
For those who don't want to look it up, the 300 kg Li-ion battery pack in the Nissan Leaf stores 24 kWh of energy. That's about the same as 2 kg of aviation fuel, about 5 kg if you take into account engine efficiency. Plus after you burn the fuel, its weight is gone. The battery pack still weighs the same even after it's completely flat. So the average weight of the batteries for the entire flight is essentially doubled compared to fuel. All-electric is totally nonviable for aviation.

The idea of props on larger planes has been tried before. Unfortunately, the public views props (really unducted turbofans) as "old tech" even though they aren't (the engine itself is still a jet turbine). There's considerable resistance to putting them on larger planes, even if they are more efficient. There are also maintenance and safety issues with them as well. McDonnell Douglas tried it on their MD-80 aircraft in the 1980s, but couldn't sell a single one to the airlines.

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