Navigation path

Decrease textIncrease textDividerPrint versionRSSDivider

Alternative Fuels and Biofuels for Aircraft Development

State of the Art - Background

Tags: Air

ALFA-BIRD aims to develop the use of alternative fuels in aeronautics. In a context where the price of oil is increasing and with the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, the sustainable growth of the civil aviation is conditioned by respecting the environment. In this context, using biofuels and alternative fuels in aeronautics is a great challenge, due to very strict operational constraints (e.g. flying in very cold conditions) and the long lifetime of current civil aircraft (almost 50 years).


The main objective of ALFA-BIRD is to develop the use of alternative fuels in aeronautics with a long-term perspective, to help improve each country's energy independence, help lessening global-warming effects, and to help soften the economic uncertainty of crude oil peaking. ALFA-BIRD will investigate new approaches and new alternative fuels to power aircraft with the possibility of revisiting the fuel specifications and reconsidering the whole aircraft system.

In operational terms, ALFA-BIRD addresses the following objectives:

- To identify and evaluate possible alternative fuels to petroleum kerosene, considering the whole aircraft system;

- To assess the adequacy of a selection of up to five alternative fuels with aircraft requirements based on a series of tests and experiments;

- To evaluate the environmental and economical performance of selected alternative fuels;

- To establish an industrial use of the 'best' alternative fuels.

Description of Work

The project is organised into three technical sub-projects (SP):

SP1: Overview of potential alternative fuels.

To provide a complete analysis of the development of new alternative fuels and biofuels for the aircraft industry.

SP2: Suitability of alternative fuels to the aircraft requirements.

To assess the suitability of three to five alternative fuels with respect to aircraft requirements.

SP3: Technical analysis and future alternative fuels strategy.

To provide a strategy and implementation plan for alternative fuels in the aircraft industry based on the results of SP1 and SP2, as well as an environmental and economical assessment.

Expected Results

The main innovative deliverables will be:

1. New alternative fuels for aircraft;

a) Short term: Blend of kerosene and biofuel (treated plant oil)

b) Long term:

- New molecules: fatty acids produced by fermentation processes will enlarge the availability of candidates to be used as fuel for aircraft.

- Definition of best formulations thanks to the knowledge gained during the experimental study of the characteristics and properties of alternative fuels.

2. Redefine the requirements of jet fuels to optimise the supply chain (including production), the use and the operability of alternative fuels.

3. Long-term strategy and implementation plan for the use of alternative fuels for aircraft (this is a key deliverable for the project).

4. New methodology and corresponding tools for eco-efficiency assessment taking into account the whole life-cycle analysis.

Overview of the sub-projects
Overview of the sub-projects