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Mar 17, 2017 09:58 AM EDT

NASA Study Reveals Using Biofuels Lessen Pollution Caused By Jet Engines

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Using biofuel for jet engines could help reduce pollution
Using biofuel for jet engines could help reduce pollution
(Photo : Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

A study by NASA has confirmed that using biofuels actually help reduce pollution emitted by power jet engines. The decrease amounts as much as 50 to 70 percent.

In NASA's official website, it was reported that the space agency collected data during flight tests in 2013 and 2014 near NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California as part of the test series Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions Study (ACCESS). The information gathered included the effects of alternative fuels on engine performance, emissions and aircraft-generated contrails at altitudes typically flown by commercial airliners.

The study, published in the journal "Nature," was part of a cooperative international research program led by NASA. It also involved agencies from Germany and Canada.

Contrails, which are produced by hot aircraft engine exhaust mixing with cold air, are believed to have played a significant role in air pollution. These emissions create long-lasting clouds that are not typically formed in the atmosphere.

Bruce Anderson, ACCESS project scientist, said that soot emissions also play a key role in contrail properties and their formation. With this, the observed particle reductions measured during ACCESS should mean reduced ice crystal concentrations in contrails and should help minimize its effect on the planet.

According to Phys.org, the flight tests involved flying NASA's workhouse DC-8 as high as 40,000 feet. Also, its four engines burned a 50-50 blend of aviation fuel and a renewable alternative fuel of hydro-processed esters and fatty acids, which were produced from camelina plant oil.

Research aircrafts flew behind the DC-8 at distances that range from 300 feet to over 20 miles. It took measurements on emissions and studied contrail formation as the different types of fuel were burned.

Rich Moore, lead author, added that this was the first time that the amount of soot particles emitted by jet engines was quantified. The researchers admitted that they will continue these studies to better understand and prove the potential benefits of replacing current fuels with biofuels.

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