University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

UD energy team develops processes to ramp up bio-based aviation fuel

Airplanes zoom overhead, wispy-white contrails streaming behind them. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) handled 43,684 flights, on average, every day last year, and U.S. military and commercial flights together used over 20 billion gallons of jet fuel. All those emissions add up. World air travel contributed 815 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2016 — two percent of the global manmade total, according to the International Air Transport Association. And global air traffic is not slowing down. IATA predicts that 7.2 billion passengers will travel by air in 2035, nearly doubling the 3.8 billion that flew in 2016.

So how do we make air travel easier on the environment? University of Delaware researchers are working to develop an alternative jet fuel. Instead of petroleum, UD researchers want to power planes with corncobs and wood chips — stuff you generally don’t care much about unless you’re a groundhog or a beaver looking for leftovers.