Boeing has spent 45 days in Glasgow, Scotland, testing its next-generation 737-800 ecoDemonstrator aircraft. The airplane uses a range of technologies designed to increase its fuel efficiency and reduce noise pollution. Boeing believes that by learning from tests such as this they could help achieve carbon neutral flight by 2050.
One of the technologies being used is a regenerative fuel cell which stores the surplus energy produced during take-off and cruising, and then uses it to power the aircrafts systems. Fuel cells have always been considered as having the potential to revolutionise road transport, and shipping, in terms of creating low carbon transport, but never has it been successfully used to power flight.
One of the problems with fuel cell technology at the moment is that it is incredibly bulky. Jeane Yu, the director of Environmental Performance at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said that the fuel cell “fills up the whole cargo compartment.”
“We know the technology is more challenging to put on an aircraft, but we're looking at a potential alternative energy source to power the plane,” she said. “This [trial is the first stage in finding out the practicalities.”
Other technologies to increase the fuel efficiency included, software to smooth the flight trajectory, a nozzle to place at the front of the engines to increase their efficiency, and an adaptive wing edge which allows for optimal aerodynamics depending on the stage of the flight.
Yu explained that airlines are constantly looking for new methods to reduce costs, and as “fuel is already nearing 50 per cent of airline operator's costs. They're always interests in technologies that improve fuel efficiency – and this is also an opportunity to improve their environmental performance.”
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com