NASA Alternative Aviation Fuel Research

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Bruce E Anderson, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States
We present an overview of research conducted by NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to evaluate the performance and emissions of “drop-in” alternative jet fuels, highlighting experiment design and results from the Alternative Aviation Fuel Experiments (AAFEX-I & -II) and Alternative Fuel-Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions flight series (ACCESS-I & II). These projects included almost 100 hours of sampling exhaust emissions from the NASA DC-8 aircraft in both ground and airborne operation and at idle to takeoff thrust settings. Tested fuels included Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthetic kerosenes manufactured from coal and natural-gas feedstocks; Hydro-treated Esters and Fatty-Acids (HEFA) fuels made from beef-tallow and camelina-plant oil; and 50:50 blends of these alternative fuels with Jet A. Experiments were also conducted with FT and Jet A fuels doped with tetrahydrothiophene to examine the effects of fuel sulfur on volatile aerosol and contrail formation and microphysical properties. Results indicate that although the absence of aromatic compounds in the alternative fuels caused DC-8 fuel-system leaks, the fuels did not compromise engine performance or combustion efficiency. And whereas the alternative fuels produced only slightly different gas-phase emissions, dramatic reductions in non-volatile particulate matter (nvPM) emissions were observed when burning the pure alternative fuels, particularly at low thrust settings where particle number and mass emissions were an order of magnitude lower than measured from standard jet fuel combustion; 50:50 blends of Jet A and alternative fuels typically reduced nvPM emissions by ~50% across all thrust settings. Alternative fuels with the highest hydrogen content produced the greatest nvPM reductions. For Jet A and fuel blends, nvPM emissions were positively correlated with fuel aromatic and naphthalene content. Fuel sulfur content regulated nucleation mode aerosol number and mass concentrations within aging exhaust plumes, but did not clearly impact contrail formation or microphysics.