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Carbon Emissions and Aviation

On Sunday I will be lifting off into the wild blue yonder once more for a quick scoot across the Atlantic from Boston to Dublin and on to Milan. This is a rather regular occurrence nowadays. Flying is part of my life and for the kids, who have been on more aircraft than trains.

The environmental impact of all of this folly though is tied up in a rather controversial debate. On the one hand we have those who say that airline carbon and pollution emissions is minimal, others disagree. It seems that between 2 and 5% of possible global warming type emissions come from aviation. Not a lot we might think, when we bear in mind that 10% comes from car use, and about 17% from agricultural food production, but we all eat, we do not all fly.

This year the European Union was to start taxing airlines on their carbon emissions, in line with the way they tax other industry on theirs. This might seem fair to some, not to others, particularly large airlines and countries. Here in the USA a law was passed to state that US airlines could not participate in the scheme, and so could not pay the tax. China, India and others followed, and so the scheme has been postponed.

A Modern Jet Engine
A Modern Jet Engine

So back to my flight on Sunday. Between us, I and my family will produce about 12 metric tons of carbon dioxide in our time in the air. The average European produces about 10 a year, Americans more like 19 0r 20 and the average African about 0.3 tons per year.

Oh to put things in perspective the global average is 1.3 metric tons per year per person, and the 1.1 billion people who live on the continent of Africa produces about 7% of the emissions that the 0.6 billion population of North America produce.

So taken in terms of people and not percentages, flying is extremely polluting. But people are not going to stop flying. The aviation industry is ever expanding, even vegetables fly nowadays.

One way that aircraft engineers are trying to cut down on emissions is to design lighter and more fuel efficient engines. Weight is a big problem in flying, and it is our old friend 3D printing who might come to the rescue.

A company called CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation and the French company Snecma, has created the LEAP engine — an acronym for “leading edge aviation propulsion” that the company hopes reflects just how innovative the new aircraft component is. LEAP has many futuristic features, including a 3-D-printed nozzle, the part of the plane responsible for burning fuel.

3D printing allows engineers to produce objects in materials that either would be too expensive or impossible to make using conventional techniques, and they can use lightweight materials or ceramics as is the case with the new CFM engine to substitute heavy metal parts. Check out this article in CNN for details.

Over the last couple of weeks an aeroplane has made a trans America flight using solar power, and this is just part of its round the world trip. A whole new concept in low carbon emission flight, although currently a bit slow.

Another possibility is to use organic jet fuel. Although this may seem strange, as long ago as 2009 Air New Zealand conducted a test flight using an organic jet fuel mix that seemed to demonstrate a 60% cut in carbon emissions.

Here is a link to an article in the New York Times about aviation and carbon developments and some more data about carbon emissions in Africa if I have tickled your interest. And as always, I am all ears.

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Sponsored: Airbus and the future of aviation

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Airbus. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

If you have been following the news lately, you will most probably have seen Airbus popping up a fair bit. I am personally really interested in Airbus, as it is an exciting company which I believe is set to revolutionise the aviation industry. That is why, when I was approached by Airbus, I couldn’t refuse to write an article for them!

At the moment I am trailing a technology of the future, Remote Heating Control in my home. Remote Heating Control is the future for smarter living. I believe that Airbus are the future for smarter air travel.

Inefficiencies

Currently the aviation industry is incredibly inefficient. It’s a fact that if you get a plane from London to Dublin, the CO2 emission you would produce would be about 3 and a half times great than were you to use a train and ferry. Flights are also often more cramped, however they are usually a lot faster.

The massive fuel costs not only cost the consumer, but also the environment. Okay, maybe I am being a little unfair to current aviation, but the fact is it isn’t all that good all of the time.

A Sustainable Future

Earlier this month, Airbus unveiled its vision for sustainable aviation in 2050 and beyond. That’s right, aviation which doesn’t have to cost the earth. Airbus says that its plans will create ‘smarter skies’. Remote Heating Control is one of the features of smarter homes, now Airbus are going to generate smarter skies. It looks like technology really is making the future ‘smarter’!

4D Light Show

Airbus being a futuristic visionary unveiled their vision for the future of aviation in style, with an amazing 4D projection light show in Berlin. The display started with a simple paper aeroplane and went on to show viewers its vision of what planes of the future would be like.

4D light showWish you hadn’t missed the event? Don’t worry there is a video of the show below!

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The Future For Air Travel

Airbus believe that in the future aviation will be so efficient that it will be almost unrecognisable from what it is today. Airbus believe that aeroplanes will take more inspiration from nature in the future, being designed more efficiently, and like birds plotting their routes based on daily changes in weather and atmospheric conditions.

Planes are also more likely to run on biofuels, which are likely to be cheaper and better for the planet.

Redesigned planes matched with more efficient flying – like flying in certain weather conditions, or in formation with other aircraft to reduce drag (known as ‘express skyways’) – mean that Airbus can predict that aircraft emissions will be 50% of their current levels by just 2050.

An interesting fact for you here, 1.5 billion dollars could be saved across the globe every year, if every aircraft flight were just one minute shorter. Just one minute. In the future more direct routes, better designed aircraft and better planning could save a lot more than one minute of airtime per flight. Currently only 65% of airlines sometimes take the most direct route, so imagine what would happen if 100% of airlines always took the most direct route.

Airbus also believe that planes will become more spacious, comfortable and quieter. Airports themselves are also likely to become more efficient, with specially designed vehicles taxing the aircraft to and from the runway, saving immense amounts of fuel.

Aviation is about to get greener, as we move into an age of smarter skies. We live in exciting times, as technology seems to be constantly improving the way we live and our prospects for the future.