NASA has begun a set of flight tests of biofuels based on nonfood plants to determine their emissions and performance effects on jet engines. The tests started Feb. 28 using NASA's DC-8 aircraft, which was outfitted as a laboratory and was tracked by a Falcon HU-25 equipped with instrumentation.
The biofuel is based on the camelina plant, a relative of mustard and canola. It's also a relative of oilseed, the basis of the 100 percent nonfood jet fuel used by Canada's National Research Council last fall to power a Falcon 20 civil jet. (See: First Civil Jet Flies on 100 Percent Non-Food Biofuel .) Camelina oil is a commercial crop, and the EPA has just approved its use as a low-carbon feedstock under the Renewable Fuel Standard Program.
NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory will be followed by an HU-25 Falcon measuring the contrail's chemical contents to compare the environmental effects of standard JP-8 jet fuel and a blend that includes nonfood plant-based biofuel. (Source: NASA/Eddie Winstead)
NASA's tests, expected to continue for about three weeks, are being conducted under the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions (ACCESS) project run jointly by NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, its Langley Research Center in Virginia, and its Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. The tests will be conducted primarily at Edwards Air Force Base. The DC-8 will fly at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet, and the Falcon HU-25 will follow it at distances from 300 feet to more than 10 miles.
The tests will compare emissions, performance, and contrails generated by the aircraft using two different fuels: standard JP-8 jet fuel and a blend of equals parts JP-8 and camelina oil-based fuel. The primary aim is to determine the effects of the different fuels on the environment. The DC-8, based at NASA's Dryden facility, has been modified to support the Airborne Science mission. NASA has used the aircraft for research such as testing prototype satellite instruments, verifying data received from satellites, receiving telemetry data from space vehicles while they are launched or during re-entry, and investigating surface and atmosphere conditions on Earth.
The ACCESS program is being conducted under the aegis of NASA's Fixed Wing Project, part of the agency's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. Next year, NASA plans to perform more extensive ACCESS flight tests based on data gathered from these flights.
Alternative fuels are not a new field for NASA. The agency studied alternatives with ground-based instruments in 2009 and 2011. Past research has looked at fuels based on algae and chicken fat.
"Exactly mydesign, it is better to use combination of power sources. Because specially in engine it will use lot of energy to start it and after it is started it will need less power to operate that. "
Pubudu, now a day's most of the next generation vehicles are hybrid model, where two types of fuels can be injected. My car is also an hybrid model, where gas and petrol can be used, depends up on usage.
"the fuel being tested is a 50% blend, not 100% biofuel: 50% biofuel, 50% JP-8 petro-based standard jet fuel. In general, biofuel usually does not equal the performance of petro-based fuel, especially in transportation fuels. Jet fuel is the one possible exception. If NASA is using a blend, that means the biofuel they're testing is not, or not yet, high performance enough to be used in a 100% formulation."
Ann, thanks for the details. I think a right mix of these two can yield a better performance than individual yield.
Mydesign, the fuel being tested is a 50% blend, not 100% biofuel: 50% biofuel, 50% JP-8 petro-based standard jet fuel. In general, biofuel usually does not equal the performance of petro-based fuel, especially in transportation fuels. Jet fuel is the one possible exception. If NASA is using a blend, that means the biofuel they're testing is not, or not yet, high performance enough to be used in a 100% formulation.
"It's another relative of mustard and canola, in the Brassica family of plants, and also related to the oilseed plant the Canadians are using in a 100% biofuel jet fuel. The NASA fuel being tested, however, is a 50-50 blend with regular, petro-based JP-8 jet fuel."
Ann, you mean that they are planning to do the R&D with a mixture of these two. Any advantage in mixing these two.
"but hey, whatever works. As long as they are researching ways to replace gasoline and oil-based fuels with more environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient options, it's all the kind of work that needs to be done, and quickly"
Elizebeth, its only a suggestion for long run. Now a day's most o the automobile engines are converting to hybrid mode.
In my opinion NASA is one if not the most contributing organisation of new developments and transfer of these developments to general use.
What hurts to see is when an organisation like that is being taken apart piece by piece.
It is important for NASA to spend time of large globaly implicating project while also working on strange stuff ( reaching for the starts ). That what makes NASA this science giant. Imagination and risk should be put together, not political pondering.
I'm extremely happy that finally more and more useful projects are initiated at NASA.
Well yes, but let's not forget, NASA is behind some of the most useful technologies we have today, even though they are not always recognized for it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies
But you're right, much better to focus on something that will have use for a greater good than reach for the stars all the time (although those NASA efforts are quite interesting as well and spawn useful technologies while looking to the future).
Thanks for the clarification. I agree that it's good to see some useful and practical R&D coming out of the agency. I can imagine that it's taken quite awhile to recover from not only the staffing cuts, but what they represented in terms of institutional knowledge lost.
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