2022 INNOVATORS’ GLOBAL CHALLENGE
Below are links to some resources which may help with your submissions for the Innovators’ Global Challenge. These are not exhaustive but should give you some food for thought.
General guidance on how aviation can achieve net zero emissions
Sustainable Aviation Fuels
Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCS)
Airframe and Aircraft Technology
Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) are frequently becoming a popular choice for a transition fuel to 2050. A number of UK airlines are utilising SAFs already including British Airways, TUI and EasyJet. Cost- competitive, sustainably sourced SAFs are considered a crucial element in disconnecting carbon intensification from market growth. Research into SAFs provides an opportunity to produce a fuel whereby aromatics are diluted with the addition of renewable iso-alkanes, then later in the process, fully replaced with cycloalkanes, finally adding high-performance molecules that provide a competitive jet fuel to kerosene. Key to this fuel pathway is understanding and sourcing SAF feedstocks, in a cost effective manner. One of the most common methods of SAF production is sourcing waste carbon, and there are often additional benefits, such as cleaner water when obtaining carbon from wet sludges or producing less landfill when obtaining carbon from solid waste. The chemical properties of kerosene differ from other fuel blends, so research will likely be most successful if the end product is kept in mind.
Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCS)
Carbon capture, utilisation and storage, or CCS, is a vital emissions reduction technology that can be applied across the energy system and indeed the aviation sector. Many energy companies are looking into the development of CCS including Shell and BP. CCS within the aviation industry would involve the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fuel combustion, as well as the transportation of this CO2 via pipeline or other method, and either its use as a resource to create additional products and services or alternatively, its permanent storage underground. Research into this area is key for two reasons, firstly CCS can help us to offset the emissions of carbon based aviation fuels during the transition period to 2050 and secondly, CCS can work with other technologies to make the fuelling process more sustainable.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth, making it one of the most promising future aviation fuels. Hydrogen has a current production rate of around 120 million tonnes annually, amounting to around 14.4 exajoules, and around 4% of global final energy use. Despite this, hydrogen production is not an easy task and producing it sustainably on a large scale is a huge challenge. In order to be produced in a sustainable way and truly classified as a clean, green energy carrier, hydrogen must be sourced from renewable energy processes, which is not the case at the moment.
Currently, there are three primary technologies which contribute to hydrogen production; alkaline electrolysis (AEL), proton exchange membrane electrolysis (PEM) and high- temperature electrolysis (HTE). Aside from electrolysis, there are a number of ways to produce hydrogen, however many of these methods are unsustainable. A process called steam methane reformation is a popular method but largely employs natural gas and despite producing high yields of hydrogen, is still an unsustainable process. The challenge now lies in researching and producing hydrogen via green technology with high yields.
Plans to use electricity as a clean propulsive energy for aircraft have recently been making great advances and a small number of electric aircraft projects are underway where the aircraft utilise battery stored electricity as an alternative to hydrocarbon fuel, such as the initial electric-only ‘spirit of innovation’ concept driven by Rolls Royce. Electric motors do not produce any emissions during their operation, this makes them a competitive technology when looking to achieving the environmental goal of the Paris Agreement by 2050. In terms of electric power generation however, this process is unfortunately not entirely emissions- free yet, and only if the electricity is produced via clean, renewable energies can it truly be classed as emission free. Though it can be expected that the related emissions will begin to decrease considerably between now and 2050, thanks to the strong trend towards renewable energies across all sectors of the global economy. The main challenge lies in battery storage and aircraft range.