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Biofuels research project being led by Pratt & Whitney Canada


Farnborough Air Show, UK – Pratt & Whitney Canada says it is leading an aerospace industry-university research effort to investigate the potential use of biofuels for small- and medium-sized engine applications.

The project will evaluate the feasibility of using second-generation biofuels that originate from sources that do not compete with human food sources. These could include jatropha and algae-derived biofuels, as well as biobutanol to power aircraft engines.

“We aim to have a fuel-flexible engine and to develop technologies that will allow us to offer aircraft manufacturers innovative and green power solutions,” said Walter Di Bartolomeo, the company’s vice president – engineering.

The specific objectives for the four-year project include identifying and assessing appropriate biofuels, studying their effect on engine components such as combustors and fuel systems, developing appropriate technologies and design changes to accommodate them, and conducting tests comparing current jet fuels with first-generation ethanol, as well as second-generation biofuels.

The alternative fuel project is one of several initiatives announced recently by the governments of Canada and India under a joint research collaboration agreement in the field of science and technology. The Canadian portion is being funded through the International Science and Technology Partnerships Program.

The company is managing the project and dedicating resources at its research centres in Longueuil and Mississauga to look into engine components and materials changes. Infotech Enterprises and two major Indian oil companies will share in this effort. Four Canadian institutions, McGill University, Laval University, Ryerson University and National Research Council Canada are also participating, along with the Indian Institute of Technology, Science and Petroleum.

The company says it has previously undertaken extensive research into alternative jet fuel blends using shale and tar sand oil derived products, as well as hydrogen.

“We are very pleased about launching this study of biofuels for small aircraft engines,” said Sam Sampath, the company’s manager and senior fellow, combustion engineering and emissions control, and leader of the research project. “Our goal is to develop technologies for fuel flexible gas turbine engines, which can operate with a variety of biofuels and mixtures using the same hardware.”