NASA recently performed emissions testing on alternative, renewable fuels for a greener and less petroleum-dependent future. The search for alternative fuels is driven by environmental concerns as well as a desire for reduced reliance on foreign sources.
"Renewable" means that the fuel source isn't some form of fossil fuel. The source could be algae, a plant such as jatropha, or even rendered animal fat. In late March and early April 2011, a team at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California tested renewable biofuel made from chicken and beef tallow in one of the four engines of a DC-8 airplane.
The airplane remained on the ground during the test, known as the Alternative Aviation Fuels Experiment, or AAFEX, while aeronautics researchers measured the fuel's performance in the engines and examined the engine exhaust for chemicals and contamination that could contribute to air pollution. It was the first test ever to measure biofuel emissions for nitrogen oxides, commonly known as NOx, and tiny particles of soot or unburned hydrocarbon - both of which can degrade air quality in communities with airports. NOx contributes to smog and particulate matter contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular ailments.
"The test results seem to support the idea that biofuels for jet engines are indeed cleaner-burning, and release fewer pollutants into the air. That benefits us all," said Ruben Del Rosario of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio. Del Rosario manages NASA's Subsonic Fixed Wing Project, which sponsored the experiment through the agency's Fundamental Aeronautics Program.
|Credit : NASA|