CO2 is disappearing from aviation more slowly than from cars: a project by General Electric in the US and Safron in France promises engines that are 20% more efficient than today’s by the mid-2030s.
General Electric’s aerospace business produces engines for aircraft such as the Boeing 737, 747 and 787. The French company Safran is GE’s partner in the development and production of these engines.
The two companies made a joint announcement: they signed a Memorandum of Understanding to continue working together until at least 2050. But more interesting is the detail that they have set themselves the goal of offering new aircraft engines by the mid-1930s that can cut fuel consumption by a fifth (not a fifth, but 20%) compared to today’s most fuel-efficient engines. The new engines will be designed to run on all the new fuels expected to be available in a decade and a half, including bio-cocaine and hydrogen!
Two of the technologies to reduce fuel consumption are mentioned in the communication. One is an open turbine design, as shown on the front cover, which is said to deliver the speed and cabin comfort of today’s closed-engine aircraft while burning less fuel. The second is the use of hybrid technology, a familiar automotive technology, which uses electric auxiliary power and energy recovery in aircraft engines.
In aviation, replacing conventional high-density fuel with either battery electricity or hydrogen is much more complicated than in surface transport or waterborne transport, as the weight and size of a flying machine is much less flexible than in cars, buses and boats. However, if we manage to use fuel made from renewable energy and even save 20% on that in 15 years’ time, that will be a major achievement in commercial aviation technology.