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Commercial aviation alternative fuels initiative taps School of Engineering lab as first in nation for screening

By Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications

The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative has greenlighted the University of Dayton Heyne Energy and Appropriate Technology Lab and the University of Dayton Research Institute to be the first in the nation to prescreen alternative aviation fuels for viability to enter the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) testing program.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, alternative aviation fuels are created from renewable, recycled and alternative sources, and mimic the chemistry of petroleum jet fuel. They can provide the same or greater level of performance and safety as today's petroleum-derived jet fuel and be used in aircrafts and engines without modification. Sustainable aviation fuel development and deployment is a key element of the U.S. Aviation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan submitted by the U.S. to the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization.

"Prescreening is not required as part of ASTM process nor does it guarantee approval," said Joshua Heyne, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. "But our prescreening methods can provide new fuel developers early-stage confidence or a heads-up on challenges their formulas might encounter in the formal approval process. For example, prescreening may help a producer refine production processes or alter feedstocks, thus improving the fuel's chances of success in the formal approval process."

Alternative aviation fuel producers can test as little as a half of a liter, or 17 ounces, according to the research and development team technical guidance document written by Heyne and representatives from GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney, and Boeing, 

"The ATSM approval process, which historically has required at least 100 gallons to begin and tens of thousands of gallons to complete the process, can span multiple years at a significant cost, making mid-course fuel qualification corrections painful to prospective alternative aviation fuel developers," Heyne said. "Our process fulfills a need for an early-stage, low-volume, lower-cost and rapid prescreening technique outside the formal ASTM approval and evaluation process."

In the past five years, Heyne's research has focused on streamlining the approval process for alternative jet fuels as part of the National Jet Fuels Combustion Program with more than $2.1 million dollars in federal support. He was recently awarded $345,000 in new grant funding to advance his work on prescreening sustainable aviation fuels and quantifying their benefits.

Read the entire research and development team technical guidance document here. Heyne conducted a webinar on the process, which can be viewed here. Alternative jet fuel developers can email R&D@caafi.org to discuss the screening process.

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