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USAF aims to extend alternate fuels to scramjets

Flight tests and full-scale engine demonstrators for evaluating non-conventional fuels is to be a focus of co-operation between the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) in Ohio over a six-year contract.

During the six years the "fuels and combustion technologies for aerospace propulsion" work will also encompass the investigation of different fuels from "conventional and non-conventional sources", technologies to analyse and manufacture them and detect contaminants, and measure their performance, emission levels, specific products of their combustion and the effect of additives. This will be done across a range of engine configurations including supersonic ramjet, combined-cycle, turbine and rocket engines.

"Currently, UDRI is the only known source having the breadth and depth of technical experience and expertise for this programme," says the AFRL. Most of the work is to be conducted at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, with the AFRL's propulsion directorate's turbine engine division's fuels branch.

As well as non-conventional fuels commercially available, alternate fuels will be tested for their physical and combustion properties in "realistic simulations" and flight testing.

The USAF wants to certificate its entire fleet on synthetic fuel by 2011. The AFRL/UDRI co-operation would see such use of alternate fuels extended to future weapon systems.

On 19 August a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle from the USAF's 339th Flight Test Squadron flew using an alternative fuel that was a 50/50 mix of JP-8 jet fuel and a natural gas-based synthetic fuel. The USAF says that the alternate fuel did not diminish the aircraft's performance.

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