Whilst all other relevant industrial sectors have been able to achieve significant emissions reductions over the last few decades, pollution from the aviation sector continues to rise steadily. One of the main reasons for this is that the development of traditional propulsion technology has reached its feasible limits and any improvements in emissions and fuel consumption that are achieved do not compensate for rise in emissions caused by the continuing increase of air traffic.
The development of new, low emission aircraft concepts and propulsion technologies represents a huge opportunity. Alongside this, the currently ongoing decentralisation of aviation requires new concepts for air traffic, both on the ground and in the air.
The Berlin-Brandenburg region has the necessary competencies to be a pioneer in modern, environmentally-friendly regional air traffic. The “Innovation Alliance for the Development of Low Emission Aircraft Engines” (IBEFA) project is overseeing the development, construction and testing of new propulsion concepts that will be of particular use in regional air travel. However, further development of airport infrastructure at the operational (integration of hybrid-electric aircraft) and structural levels (e.g. production and provision of hydrogen at airfields) is required. The goal of the GRW collaboration network “Consortium for Innovative Low Emission Airfield Strategies for Regional Air Traffic (KIFER)” is to act as an incubator and coordination platform for a variety of projects that will help develop this “airport of the future”.
A central area of interest for KIFER is the establishment of pilot projects to investigate a decentralised supply chain for synthetic “power-to-liquid” (PTL) fuels. PTL fuels are produced using a chemical process involving electric current, water and CO2 that can be extracted from the atmosphere. An intermediate product of this process is hydrogen. This hydrogen can then be directly used as fuel for vehicles or as energy storage for later reconversion. PtL fuels are able to replace kerosene without any significant technical hurdles and would enable entirely CO2 neutral aircraft operations. Clean burning PTL fuels also produce fewer condensation trails, which current studies show to have a significant effect on the climate.
The KIFER network is involved in the following activities:
- Information centre for further innovative development of regional air traffic and its infrastructure
- Design and implementation of hybrid refuelling stations
- Decentralised synthesis of fuels
- Fuel certification
- Development of standards
- Monitoring of international activities
- Initiating new projects with new partners
The work listed here represent the necessary requirements for things such as the IBEFA project’s technology demonstrator with required services. At the same time, the KIFER project is to work on developing the standards and certifications that can then be implemented internationally.