Academia Consortium To Develop Synthetic Fuel for UK Airlines

The University of Birmingham is heading up a new consortium that's tasked with creating low carbon synthetic fuel for the UK aviation industry.
Donna Fuscaldo
Airplane getting fuel aapsky/iStock

A major scourge of the environment has long been jet fuel. A recent estimate by The Rhodium Group found carbon dioxide emissions increased 3.4% last year with transportation the main culprit. But it wasn't cars that are causing the increases. It's trucking and air travel that was to blame. 

Aiming to make airplanes more environmentally friendly, The University of Birmingham has become the leader of a new consortium that will look at the use of low carbon synthetic fuel within the UK aviation industry and the impact it will have on the environment. 


UK government wants to decarbonize transportation 

In a press release, the university said the NewJet Network+ is one of five groups the government announced would be working to decarbonize transportation in the UK. The initiative is supported with £5 million in funding and will bring together experts in academia and the transportation industries to come up with and roll out more eco-friendly technologies that can be used to move people and things by rail, sea or air. 

“Many synthetic fuels are produced to mirror closely the properties and performance of traditional petroleum-based fuels and they could offer huge benefits to the industry if this restriction were able to be relaxed," said Simon Blakey, NewJet+ Project Lead at the University of Birmingham in a press release. "Clearly there are challenges to adopting these new products and we need to understand these before the UK is able to deliver a low carbon future for the industry.” 

University of Birmingham's efforts to last until 2022

The group will start work in November with the efforts lasting until 2022. Of the £5 million, the University of Birmingham said £1 million being provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will go toward smaller research projects that have more flexibility.  

“Bringing together some of the brightest minds from all corners of the UK, these transport networks will boost the development of technologies that have the potential to clean up our transport systems – so we can cycle, drive and even fly into a greener future," said Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng in the press release. 

This past spring The Rhodium Group released its report that showed carbon dioxide emissions increased last year, marking the second-largest annual gain in over twenty years. "The transportation sector held its title as the largest source of US emissions for the third year running, as robust growth in demand for diesel and jet fuel offset a modest decline in gasoline consumption," wrote The Rhodium Group in the report. 

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