Missouri S&T researchers have received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to further study the effects of sustainable aviation fuels on the environment. S&T received a similar grant of over $2 million in 2022 to begin the research.
Dr. Philip Whitefield, professor emeritus of chemistry at Missouri S&T, and Dr. Klaus Woelk, associate professor of chemistry at S&T, received the funding through the FAA’s Aviation Sustainability Center (ASCENT), which is part of the FAA Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Alterative Jet Fuels and Environment.
The S&T team will measure emissions from aircraft engines that burn sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) to study their potential effect on the environment. They will also help quantify the effect fuel composition has on particulate emissions to estimate the positive environmental impact of adopting sustainable fuels.
These sustainable fuels are made from renewable sources and have the potential to perform as well as petroleum-based jet fuel, but they have a smaller carbon footprint, says Whitefield.
“The FAA and the aviation industry are working to fully understand the impact of aviation on climate and air quality, including understanding the benefits of new combustor technology,” says Whitefield. “Our research will provide additional experience with using sustainable aviation fuel blends to quantify the effects of fuel composition on particulate emissions.”
The team will measure non-volatile particulate matter (nvPM) emissions of various jet fuels in commercial widebody transport and business jet aircrafts. They will follow the methods the team at Missouri S&T helped to develop for the aviation engine industry, the FAA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Aircraft emissions have been shown to impact atmospheric processes that contribute to global climate change,” says Whitefield. “One possible way to positively impact air travel’s influence on climate change is to understand and control the role fuel composition and engine design play in aircraft emissions.”
Whitefield and his team at Missouri S&T are international leaders in the study of particulate emissions. In 2003, S&T became a founding member of the FAA Air Center of Excellence – the Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction, which in 2014 became the Transportation Center of Excellence for Alterative Jet Fuels and Environment. In 2011, S&T researchers published a study showing that a mix of conventional and alternative fuels can cut nvPM emissions from a plane’s engine by nearly 40%, and in 2018, Whitefield and Dr. Donald E. Hagen, professor emeritus of physics, co-authored the first industry-wide report on sustainable jet fuel emissions.
About Missouri University of Science and Technology
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top 10 universities for return on investment, according to Business Insider. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.