First Algae-powered Airplane Takes To the Skies

 - June 8, 2010, 12:25 PM

EADS flew the first aircraft powered solely by algae-based biofuel today at the ILA Airshow in Berlin as part of the daily flying display. The Austrian-built Diamond Aircraft DA-42 NG’s two Austro Engine AE300 diesels required only minor adjustment to burn the biofuel, which is supplied by German processor VTS from algae oil provided by Biocombustibles del Chibut in Argentina. The aircraft’s fuel consumption was 1.5 liters per hour less than that for a similar aircraft powered by standard jet-A because the algae fuel has a higher energy content. “Our pure biofuel flight from algae is a world first and an exciting milestone in our research at EADS,” said Dr. Jean Botti, the company’s chief technical officer. “This opens up the feasibility of carbon-neutral flights.” Exhaust gas measurements show that the algae-derived fuel contains one-eighth the hydrocarbons of kerosene and greatly reduced nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxides as a result of the new fuel’s low nitrogen and sulfur content. Considered among the feedstocks with the greatest potential for widespread use, algae grows rapidly and its cultivation does not compete with food production since it can be farmed on non-arable land using non-potable water or even salt water. While the current cost of biofuels is much greater than that of fossil fuels, research and development programs are aimed at establishing cost-effective mass production.