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Sustainable Aviation- what does the future look like?

Is the future of sustainable aviation and air travel solved through new biofuels? Government legislation? Or is there something the frequent flyer can do to aid the reduction of carbon emissions? These questions have been circulating through the aerospace and tourism industry for years, and now we are getting closer to finding sustainable alternatives to the jet fuel which is being used today.

Carbon Neutral by 2050?

The aviation industry is responsible for 2.5% of global carbon emissions, which may not seem like a staggering figure but when including Effective Radiative Forcing (the difference between incoming energy and energy exerted to space) then aviation accounts for 3.5% (Our World in Data)

Again, this figure seems irrelevant in the bigger picture of Co2 emissions and environmental concerns. However, this has grown by 32% since 2013 due to the increased accessibility and popularity of flights abroad and domestic.  If the industry continues to grow at this speed, it will account for 25%  of the 1.5°C carbon budget in 2050 (Air travel | Green Choices).

Furthermore, the impact of aviation is most notable when focusing on the tourism industry.  75% of total greenhouse gases produced in that sector originate from aviation, whereas in comparison, railways and coaches just about reach 13% combined (Impact of air travel | Green Choices).   

What are we doing now?   

Whilst many mechanical & aerospace engineers are currently working on sustainable alternatives to the jet fuel which is most commonly used in commercial flying today, some solutions are being made outside of the labs.  New legislation and laws are being introduced to help control the growth of carbon emissions, and reach the nation’s respective carbon goals. 

For example, recent legislation passed in Paris this year have banned the operation of domestic flights that are 2 ½ hours or less. The law was passed alongside a pledge of 4 billion euros to ensure carbon neutrality is achieved by 2030 without the collapse of French aviation companies (

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) 

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) also known as Biofuels are made from organic biomass, often items that have been put to waste like forest and agricultural residue rather than fossil fuels which are most commonly used in commercial travel today.  Bioethanol is a type of biofuel, which is made from corn and sugar, and studies have shown it to cost roughly £1 per gallon  

Also, due to the use of organic matter in creating the fuel, the CO2 emissions used by burning the fuel are used to help the plants grow which aids the cycle of biofuels.  Furthermore, the use of farmed materials creates the potential for less economically developed regions to obtain funding for farming the needed materials.  

Currently, SAFs’ need to be blended 50% with conventional jet fuel to increase the flight range, however, development is still being done on decreasing the necessity of jet fuel’s high energy density.   

Hydrogen Fuelled Flights

Aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050 is a big task under the current uses of kerosene as jet fuel.  Nevertheless, the introduction of hydrogen planes has provided a viable solution alongside SAFs. The operation can prove to be even cheaper than using SAFs’ long-term 

Hydrogen is burnt within the combustion chambers in the aircraft and transferred to electrical energy using a fuel cell.  A by-product of using Hydrogen as a fuel is that emissions are merely water vapour, which as a result does not contribute to the ozone damage. 

Unfortunately, the issue that occurred with SAFs surrounding the inability to fly using solely that fuel, also appears with hydrogen aircraft. Although French company Zone-e is pushing their efforts to create a 100% Hydrogen engine to be commercially available by 2035. 

Electric Engines  

Electrical engines have become mainstream in the car market with Elon Musks’ company Tesla growing in popularity each year, and now NASA has announced that they will be testing their first all-electrical-engine plane later this year.  The project was founded in 2016, and now it seems that NASA has reached a model they trust with X-57 aircraft. 

The plane will run on the same lithium batteries that are found in everyday appliances (e.g. Laptops).  Not only will this help reach the carbon-neutral goals, but also removes noise pollution due to their near-silent engines.   

However, whilst carbon emissions will be lower, lithium mining destroys ecosystems and has been noted as more environmentally damaging than fracking.  On top of this, the lithium which is mined in countries such as The Democratic Republic of Congo has been linked to child labour, military financing, and overall poor working conditions which are pushing investors away from that option. (The Problem with Current Lithium Extraction Methods – EnergyX | Energy Exploration Technologies, Inc.)

What can we do?  

The substitutions for jet fuel seems to be a problem that is gaining momentum to be solved.  However, it still needs attention before it can be seen as a viable and reliable option for commercial flights. 

This leads us to ask the same question… 

What can we do? Is there anything we can do? 

The answer is YES we can do it. 

And Ortharize can help you make that difference 

Our easy-to-use product allows you to select the travel style that you want.  We can help you lower your businesses carbon footprint by using our ‘Carbon Emissions Tracker’ on your flights, saving you money every step of the journey.  

For more information on how our carbon emission reporting is done on our platform, please visit our blog which details this further:

Carbon emissions reporting on our platform, how does it work? – Ortharize
If you are interested or have more questions, please don’t hesitate to book a demo with us on our website:  Ortharize – Online Business Travel Booking and Management

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