Biofuel Research Led by Pratt & Whitney

Pratt & Whitney Canada recently announced that it was heading up an aerospace industry-university research effort designed to investigate which biofuels might be potentially used to power small and medium sized aircraft engines. The decision comes in the wake of the new UK biofuel policy review and should ultimately help to prove the feasibility of using biofuels to power aircraft.

Based in Longueuil, Quebec, Pratt & Whitney Canada have been hard at work trying to establish the feasibility of using biofuels derived from sources that cannot be used as food. The company has indicated that possible biofuel sources could be jatropha and algae. Biobutanol will be used to power aircraft engines. As VP of engineering at Pratt & Whitney Canada, Walter Di Bartolomeo commented that the aim of the company was to “have a fuel-flexible engine and to develop technologies that will allow” the company to offer “aircraft manufacturers innovative and green power solutions.

Pratt & Whitney Canada are not the only ones engaged in a race to find the best biofuel. The Rolls-Royce Group recently teamed up with British Airways to try to establish the viability of alternative fuels that could be used to power aircraft, while Japan Airlines, Continental Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are taking things one step further by conducting biofuel-powered flight tests.

Pratt & Whitney Canada have said that their search for an alternative fuel is just one of several initiatives currently being conducted under a joint research collaboration agreement that was signed by India and Canada. The Canadian side of the project will feature McGill University, Ryerson University, Laval University and the National Research Council Canada. The Indian side of the project will see research conducted by Infotech Enterprises, the Indian Institute of Technology, Science and Petroleum and two major Indian oil companies. The ultimate goal of the collaboration is to develop technologies for gas turbine engines that are fuel flexible and so can operate with a number of different biofuels while using the same hardware for each one. The four-year project will help to identify and assess different biofuels that are appropriate for use in aircrafts and then assess how these affect engine components. The results should help the company to develop technologies that can accommodate more than one type of biofuel. The results of the project should prove to be most helpful to those in the industry striving to find ways to make flying more ecologically viable.