Flying a slightly modified Austro AE300 equipped Diamond Aircraft DA42 twin, EADS has this week become the first to publicly fly an aircraft on pure biofuel made from algae. The aircraft is flying at the Berlin Air Show and burning one engine on standard jet fuel while the other burns pure (not a kerosene-algae mix) biofuel. According to EADS, the fuel isn’t just more environmentally friendly, it’s more efficient and translates in the DA42’s Austro to 1.5 fewer liters per hour for the same performance when compared with Jet-A1. That suggests better combustion/higher energy content than kerosene. Dr. Jean Botti, Chief technical officer of EADS, says this demonstrated application of pure biofuel is a “world first” and shows that biofuels are now “more than just a replacement for fossil petroleum.” If you’re thinking “there’s a catch,” you’re right.
Algae-based fuel reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 40 percent and relatively eliminates sulfur dioxide emissions when compared to Jet-A1, according to EADS. Only minor modifications were needed to adapt the Austro engines to burn the biofuel. However, EADS stipulates that it is currently much more expensive to produce algae-based fuels than it is to source crude oil. The company is optimistic that through further research it can reduce costs and increase growth of an algae-fuel industry. For now, EADS has found “no undesirable characteristics” inherent in the fuel and plans to certify the AE300 to burn it. Fuel for the display was supplied for EADS showcase flight by Biocombustibles del Chibut of Argentina and processed by VTS of Germany.