An Airbus-led initiative to promote widespread use of biofuels by 2030 will rely heavily on findings from two European research projects into alternatives.
Evaluation of alternative fuels began in February when Airbus flew an A380 test aircraft with one of its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines burning a 40% blend of gas-to-liquid (GTL) kerosene with standard jet fuel.
Sébastien Rémy, head of Airbus's alternative fuels research programme, says the European manufacturer's roadmap to sustainable and renewable second-generation biofuel feedstocks will draw on two research projects.
CALIN, a two-year laboratory study sponsored by the French government to test a diverse range of biofuels to examine their behaviour in combustors, will be used by Airbus to select specific biofuels to assess which are the best feedstocks.
CALIN involves French aerospace research agency ONERA, propulsion company Snecma and members of the country's Aerospace Valley group.
A second research project, called Alfa-Bird (Alternative Fuels And Biofuels for Aircraft Development), will conduct materials testing and help Airbus determine fuel compatibility with rubber used in existing aircraft fuel systems, Rémy says.
Airbus, Shell Aviation and Snecma are leading the European Commission-funded research project, which is investigating the economic and industrial consequences of switching from kerosene-based jet fuels to biofuels and other alternatives, testing up to five fuels in realistic conditions as part of a "well-to-wing" life-cycle study.
Co-ordinated by the European Virtual Institute for Integrated Risk Management, the project has 22 other participants including ONERA, Germany's MTU Aero Engines, the UK's University of Sheffield and Canada's University of Toronto.
Meanwhile, Airbus and its partners Shell and R-R expect results from the A380 GTL test flight to be available within the next month. Airbus aims to have a 50% blend fuel approved by 2009, and 100% GTL by 2013. Airline partner Qatar Airways plans to begin revenue services with GTL fuel in 2009.
Alternative non-food feedstocks, such as algae, are expected to reach maturity by around 2015, with aircraft approved to fly with advanced biofuels by 2020. "We believe 25% of jet fuel could be alternative fuel by 2025 and 30% could be biofuel by 2030," Rémy says.