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Transportation Technology

First Flight of Jet Powered By Algae-Fuel 255

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fish-tanks-for-fuel-tanks dept.
s31523 writes "Today a US airline carrier conducted a 90 minute test flight with one of its engines powered by a 50/50 blend of biofuel and normal aircraft fuel. This was the first flight by a US carrier after other airlines have reported trying similar flights. In February 2008, a Virgin 747 flew from London to Amsterdam partly using a fuel derived from a blend of Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts. At the end of December, one engine of an Air New Zealand 747 was powered by a 50/50 blend of jatropha plant oil and standard A1 jet fuel."
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First Flight of Jet Powered By Algae-Fuel

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  • by Jonah Bomber (535788) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:07PM (#26388347)
    Bio-fuel from algae is going to be an interesting field. It's easy to grow, difficult to harvest, and takes a lot of it to make into fuel. But it doesn't take up valuable cropland like corn does and really can be grown anywhere you're willing to build tanks. Solix (http://www.solixbiofuels.com/) is one such company working on the issue who see the potential of building tanks by power plants and then using the CO2 emissions to feed the algae.
    • by tuxgeek (872962) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:57PM (#26389121)

      It's easy to grow, difficult to harvest, and takes a lot of it to make into fuel.

      The kinks in harvesting algae will be worked out with development. Give the industry time.
      And of course it will take large quantities to produce large volumes of fuel, the up side is that algae is easy to grow anywhere and grows fast.

      Solix (http://www.solixbiofuels.com/):

      Since the whole organism converts sunlight into oil, algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two-car garage than an entire football field of soybeans.

      On a side note and off topic, what imbecile modded you down to -1? Your post is informative and includes a great link to the technology and should be modded up. I amazes me just how many morons are out there with mod points. Mr Malda, would you fix this please. Someone needs a time out.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Idiomatick (976696)

        Nobody ever bothers meta-moderating.

        • by blhack (921171)

          I used to meta-moderate almost every time I saw the link for it.

          I tried once after we switched to slashdot v2.0 and could not figure it out, so I haven't moderated since.

        • Because most of the time when there is a post the moderator doesn't like or agree with. He will moderate it Overrated.
          Overrated is not effected by Meta Moderation unless they make it so
          Rated Overrated Score when rated was x currently is y.

          Overrated should be used when a post score is about a 5. Right on the top of the page but really doesn't belong there.

      • by tuxgeek (872962)
        Damn spell check
        Post correction, should have been:
        "It amazes me just how many morons are out there with mod points."
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Jonah Bomber (535788)
        Actually, I started out at -1. My karma was Terrible. This is apparently what happens if you have a couple of +5 Funny comments. Now, thanks to this Informative post, my karma went up to Bad.

        So there are no morons who modded me down, only a /. karma system that has yet to make sense to me. I just have those moderators who actually read -1 comments to thank.
    • by afidel (530433)
      I like the idea of feeding the output of coal/gas power plants into algae farms, you get two sources of power from one carbon input.
    • by Bombula (670389)

      The real test will be whether the total energy efficiency exceeds that of creating hydrogen fuel via electrolysis as the MIT team that's been all over the news for the last year says they can now do cheaply and efficiently. Biofuel is of course just a form of solar power. The conversion efficiency is not likely to be more than about 14% based on how photosynthesis works, if I recall my numbers correctly. PV cells already do much better than that, so the real value is of course in the storage. If MIT's e

    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday January 09, 2009 @02:04PM (#26390139)

      Algae is the only really viable bio-diesel source. The closest thing to it is switchgrass, but even that can't be fully turned into bio-diesel. The only - and significant - issue with algae-derived bio-diesel is that it's difficult to efficiently turn algae into diesel.

      What astounds me though is the number of times people try to turn slow-growing foodstuff into fuel. Coconut oil? I'm sure the same genius came up with the idea to use corn for ethanol fuel. Here's why those are dead ends:
      - they require a lot of surface, water and nutrients.
      - only a small fraction of the entire plant gets used.
      - impacts food prices.

      Compare that with algae, which:
      - can grow in vats of arbitrary size.
      - can be grown in sewage treatment plants.
      - main growth restriction is light.
      - the entire organism is used in the production of the fuel.

      Every time I hear someone advocate fuel from coconuts or corn, I'm wondering how much he's getting paid by corn and coconut growers.

  • Great, but ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KindMind (897865)
    I think it's great that they're testing, but that isn't the issue, is it? Isn't the real problem in getting the production up to a practical level?
    • Re:Great, but ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:17PM (#26388519)

      Still good to know that this is renewable and useable though. Cars can go electric just fine. Airplanes capable of carrying any useful load (ie, people) have a much harder time. Weight is at a premium in an airplane and batteries are quite heavy compared to the energy they have stored.

      If/when we run out of oil I have confidence that electric cars will be pretty well developed and ready. For flight though, I think some form of combustion will still be needed.

      So production up to a practical level might not be as much of a problem if it means only supplying aviation fuel while everything else runs on electric. At would at a minimum keep small airplanes available for hobby use (where fuel burn is not really that bad - 4 to 10 gallons per hour is pretty common in smaller planes).

      • by eln (21727) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:37PM (#26388799) Homepage

        I, for one, am dismayed that they were so quick to shoot down my idea of commercial aircraft being launched to their destinations with enormous slingshots. It requires no fuel, and would look wicked cool. Where's my grant, huh? Why do these jokers who want to fly planes using used grease from a McDonald's fryer get all the money, and I don't get squat?

        All I need is a big tree and a really big elastic band at every airport, and I could solve this problem tomorrow!

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by gnick (1211984)

          Agreed that your idea would look "wicked cool", however I see a couple of problems. In order to keep the acceleration low enough to avoid destroying the plane and killing the passengers during take-off, the band will have to be fairly soft and very long. Although if we can stretch it constantly over the entire length of a sharply inclined runway, that may be enough.

          The second problem, however, is that the major technical hurdle will not be the launch. In order to stop the aircraft, you'll need a very lar

          • the major technical hurdle will not be the launch.

            The cruising altitude of a commercial jet is somewhere around 10km. Gravitational potential energy is given by mgh. Kinetic energy is given by 1/2mv^2. In order to get to this altitude, the elastic band needs to provide enough kinetic energy for the wings to turn it into gravitational potential energy. Let's pretend, for now, that this conversion is 100% efficient. Therefore:

            mgh = 1/2mv^2

            We can immediately cancel the m from both sides, giving:

            gh = 1/2v^2

            Rearrange, and we get:

            sqrt(2gh) = v

            Plug in

        • Hell why bother with the aircraft at that point? I'm envisioning 'individual' transport. We could ship things that are light enough as well like crystal ware and ship in bottles. It could also win us the space race (assuming the two trees are on opposite ends of a gorge). And it could also be easily retrofitted for wartime. It is one simple thing that solves a variety of todays difficulties!

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Oh, they're working on it [gizmodo.com]. Takeoff is a little rough though.
      • Re:Great, but ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday January 09, 2009 @01:16PM (#26389411)

        Which is why we need to start building light and fast rail NOW. Link all the cities above X million people, a hub in cities with more than X0 million people. Rail doesn't need to carry ANY energy. (Overhead power lines), rail can do regenerative braking and dump all that power back into the grid, power generation can be centralized and cleaned (rather than a million little diesel engines running around).

        • Re:Great, but ... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by 0123456 (636235) on Friday January 09, 2009 @01:50PM (#26389915)

          Rail sucks for numerous reasons. Fast rail competitive with airlines really, really sucks; rail that can safely carry people at 500mph would be insanely, absurdly expensive, because you can't afford a single failure if you're going to kill hundreds of people in a derailment. Worse than that, rail is much harder to protect against even low-grade attackers because it only takes one whacko deliberately damaging the rails in the middle of nowhere to cause such a disaster.

          Finding an alternate affordable fuel source for airliners is going to be much easier than making fast trains that are competitive with airliners. Trains are an attempt to use a 19th century solution for 21st century problems.

          • Re:Great, but ... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by afidel (530433) on Friday January 09, 2009 @02:03PM (#26390115)
            Thanks to the inconvenience of air travel a train doesn't have to go 500mph to compete with the airlines. A trip via Accella is often faster than the equivalent trip by plane because it goes from city center to city center and doesn't have the security theater surrounding it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Weight is at a premium in an airplane and batteries are quite heavy compared to the energy they have stored.

        It's even worse than that. Even if a battery had the same energy density (by weight) as fuel, it would still be worse because the batteries do not get lighter over the course of the flight, so the aircraft must constantly expend energy to carry that mass. By burning fuel you lighten your load over the course of the flight which makes flying progressively cheaper.

        Also, many aircraft can't (safely) land with a full tank of fuel. They are designed such that the landing weight will be lower (due to burning fuel

    • by TrippTDF (513419)
      I don't know how they are creating this algae, but I think we'd run into a similar problem as ethanol, where you'd need to devote so much land to growing that actually using the algae as a replacement for petroleum isn't feasible, plus the question- are you actually getting more energy out than you are putting in?

      And you'd still have lots of greenhouse gases, too.
      • Re:Great, but ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by sbeckstead (555647) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:45PM (#26388931) Homepage Journal
        They grow it in huge tanks that take up very little space compared to the mass they produce. It's actually one of the most viable sources of biomass that they have come up with yet, and the waste after extracting the oils can be used as fertilizer. So Algae is a win win bio fuel.
        • by TrippTDF (513419)
          And today I learned something!
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by NeutronCowboy (896098)

            Look up Solix for a company that is investigating this. Algae are really the only long-term viable source of bio-diesel.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          And, because it grows in tanks, it doesn't need good soil. You can grow algae in sunny locations where the soil is inadequate for farming.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Hal_Porter (817932)

        I don't know how they are creating this algae, but I think we'd run into a similar problem as ethanol, where you'd need to devote so much land to growing that actually using the algae as a replacement for petroleum isn't feasible

        Not sure about your other questions but it doesn't take up much space
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae_fuel [wikipedia.org]
        Algae fuel, also called algal fuel, oilgae, algaeoleum or third-generation biofuel, is a biofuel from algae.

        The record oil price increases since 2003, competing demands between foods and other biofuel sources and the world food crisis have ignited interest in algaculture (farming algae) for making vegetable oil, biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol, biobutanol and other biofuels. Among alga

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          I wonder what the temperature requirements are? We have tons of basically useless land out in really inclimate places, like deserts in the Southwest and practically glacial areas in the Northern U.S. Crops can't grow there and algae tanks wouldn't need to be "rotated" like crops, so we could make use of this space. It would probably equal cheap land for the companies as well.

    • by nfc_Death (915751)
      How can this be a standard response to alternative fuel talk, of course the real problem is getting it up to production level! We have over 150 years of oil based infrastructure that we rely on, I understand the desire not to change our existing structure, but we absolutely have to! Burning dead plants and dinosaurs is a losing battle, it always will be. Having a negative arguement of "Geez looks expensive to get in motion." is not an acceptable stance. Everything is expensive to get started and build up. A
  • by xpuppykickerx (1290760) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:10PM (#26388415)
    the plane could fly solely using two African swallows with a string around the plane, such as they would if they were carrying coconuts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Yetihehe (971185)
      Yes, if they were siberian swallows (much more durable and powerfull than european or african swallows) eating algae.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:11PM (#26388425) Journal
    And I posted to it then. It must have been a few years back. I did a calculation on how much energy one gets out of algae per acre, and to JUST FEED the traffic from EWR/JFK you would need to convert most of northern NJ into one giant goo pile. Not that Northern NJ isn't already one giant goo pile, but right now it's a giant goo pile full of houses and people and malls and highways and Dunkin Donut shops, all of it located on some of the nations most expensive real estate.

    Due to the low Energy Return on Energy Invested inherent to biofuels, you can't really make the stuff too far from its point of use, as the transport of the material would exceed its energy value. Jet aircraft are insanely inefficient and guzzle fuel at prodigious rates, and require fuel that has a high energy density. As a consequence I do not see biofuel for jets as anything but a stop gap measure.

    I suggest you move to where you like to live, so you can plan out your future, because in a few short decades, you're not going anywhere cheaply or quickly.

    RS

    • by lee1026 (876806) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:28PM (#26388645)

      If I recall correctly, moving liquids in a pipe does not cost much energy. In theory, there should be no reason why you can't produce somewhere dirt cheap, and then transport it over with pipelines. Alternatively, we can use electric trains to transport the stuff, and then generate the electricity with nuclear power.

      • Indeed, I hear that the south west has LARGE tracts of land (those larger than NJ) that would much more ideal. Warm, Sunny, etc.

        • by lbgator (1208974)

          I would think evaporation would be a large consideration, no? If you go to a historically dry place and make large (shallow?) pools of water it may get quite expensive to keep filling them up.

          I would think a sunny, humid, place with cheap undeveloped treeless land would be ideal. A swamp somewhere?

          • Toss a lid on it. Nothing will evaporate, it works well for ICE coolant systems. Toss a bubbler at the bottom to bubble air through the system so the algae can get air. You solve 2 problems, first is the evaporation. Second is that in a big swimming pool the only algae in contact with air is the stuff on the surface. If you bubble it through you can get air to a much larger percentage of the algae.

      • If I recall correctly, moving liquids in a pipe does not cost much energy.

        but you have to understand, the energy ratio on biofuels is *tiny* compared to petroleum. For corn based alcohol, it's a negative/break even value (per Pimental). For sugar based alcohol, it's about 2.5:1. Right now, oil is 25:1 and in the 1920s, when much of our urban infrastructure was planned and built it was 100:1. Moving liquids in a pipe reduces its energy return, and with algae goo, it's already low.

        In theory, there should

        • by lee1026 (876806)

          But 2.5 to 1 ratio is not fundamentally a problem; as long as transporting it is cheaper then 50% of the energy produced, you come out ahead. In any case, if the process can be sufficiently automated, you can repeat it as many times as you want in a loop and get any ratio you want. (use the output as input, over and over again)

    • by MorderVonAllem (931645) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:33PM (#26388721)
      This link [howstuffworks.com]shows a method of growing it vertically so allow optimal light exposure which apparently allows for greater growth (not sure how practical it is but at least it doesn't have to take much surface area)
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:38PM (#26388803)

      I assume you're basing those calculations on a couple inches of algea covering a huge area. Algea farming for biofuels doesn't work that way. You put the algea in large tubes (10 ft tall, 2 ft around) and continuously churn the water until the density of algea reaches your target harvest point. Then drain the water and process the agea.

      As for biofuels for jets being a stop gap measure, how do you expect to power jets 50 years from now if (when?) oil begins to run out. I don't see charging up some Li-Ion batteries to fly several hundred people from New York to London.

      Call me a techno-optimist, but I have faith we can solve these kinds of problems with research and engineering. We've done it before and we'll do it again.

      • As for biofuels for jets being a stop gap measure, how do you expect to power jets 50 years from now if (when?) oil begins to run out. I don't see charging up some Li-Ion batteries to fly several hundred people from New York to London.

        We replace the turbine section with a big spiral spring, and put a sticker on the instrument panel that says, "Rewind Engines Every Three Miles."

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        "I don't see charging up some Li-Ion batteries to fly several hundred people from New York to London."

        You're close ... we need .... Dilithium Crystals!

    • by colin_young (902826) on Friday January 09, 2009 @01:02PM (#26389181)

      To quote from Ask The Pilot [salon.com]:

      "As for fuel consumption, let's look first at a short trip, from New York to Boston and back again. This flight is slightly under an hour in each direction. A typical aircraft on such a route, an Airbus A320, will consume somewhere around 10,000 pounds or 1,500 gallons of jet fuel over the course of the round trip. Assuming 140 passengers, that's 71 pounds of fuel, or just over 10 gallons per person. A lone occupant making the same trip by car would consume twice those amounts."

      I'm assuming that Mr. Smith as a professional airline pilot has got his numbers right. So where's your backup for your "insanely inefficient" claim?

      • Greyhound may use a lot less gas than a driving yourself and/or the airplane.

      • Of course, these numbers are assuming a full plane and comparing it with an almost empty car - a car carrying four passengers would be more efficient per person, and a full bus or train would be even better. I've flown across the atlantic a couple of times with so few people that everyone had 3-4 chairs to themselves.
      • by Atanamis (236193) on Friday January 09, 2009 @02:07PM (#26390195)

        To quote from Ask The Pilot:

        "As for fuel consumption, let's look first at a short trip, from New York to Boston and back again. This flight is slightly under an hour in each direction. A typical aircraft on such a route, an Airbus A320, will consume somewhere around 10,000 pounds or 1,500 gallons of jet fuel over the course of the round trip. Assuming 140 passengers, that's 71 pounds of fuel, or just over 10 gallons per person. A lone occupant making the same trip by car would consume twice those amounts."

        I'm assuming that Mr. Smith as a professional airline pilot has got his numbers right. So where's your backup for your "insanely inefficient" claim?

        You are comparing a form of mass transit to a single occupant car. Nobody would claim that a single occupant car was fuel efficient. Replace your single occupant car with two to four people, and the fuel usage drops to equal or half as much as an airplane. Put the people in a plane on an appropriately sized bus, and the fuel per person would drop even more. Use a train which has a dedicated path and moves at a constant speed (again, appropriately sized), and fuel usage would drop further.

        In today's transportation, energy efficiency is basically a non-issue. People value convenience and speed far, far more than energy usage. When energy costs rise as oil depletion nears, this will change. More money will be pumped into creating new energy sources and people will travel both less and more efficiently. Most office workers don't REALLY need to travel as often as they do. Most drivers don't REALLY need a large heavy vehicle for most of their transportation. Even public transportation in the US is vastly energy inefficient due to low usage patterns. The only crisis will come if oil prices impair the ability to produce and distribute food before alternatives are found. Everything else will scale back if and when it becomes necessary.

      • One could also assume that Mr. Smith as a professional airline pilot has a vested interest in making his job look good. I'm sure that the numbers check out, but the GP also said that jet aircraft "require fuel that has a high energy density." Assuming that the fact is accurate, to find out if jet aircraft are "insanely inefficient" we must also look at the relative energy densities of jet fuel and good old gasoline, and figure out how much of a difference in production resources/costs it makes. This is l

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gizzmonic (412910)

      JUST FEED the traffic from EWR/JFK you would need to convert most of northern NJ into one giant goo pile

      So...no changes would be necessary, then?

    • by init100 (915886) on Friday January 09, 2009 @01:08PM (#26389273)

      Jet aircraft are insanely inefficient and guzzle fuel at prodigious rates

      Actually not. If we e.g. take a common Boeing 737-400, with a fuel capacity of 23170 liters, a maximum range (fully loaded) of 4005 km and a seating capacity of 159 seats, it yields a fuel consumption of 0.036 liters of fuel per km per passenger, which translates to 65 passenger-miles per gallon of fuel.

      That's not so bad, is it? Sure, it assumes that the aircraft uses its maximum range (take-off comprises a significant share of the total fuel consumption, so a short flight is much more wasteful than a long flight) and contain a full load of passengers, but still, it's a pretty good number.

    • by WebCowboy (196209) on Friday January 09, 2009 @01:10PM (#26389305)

      and to JUST FEED the traffic from EWR/JFK you would need to convert most of northern NJ into one giant goo pile.

      Not really a PILE--probably a nice thick coat of algae, but not a PILE. Besides, why would you bother covering New Jersey in it when you could grow it in the ocean or in lakes? Comparatively speaking the area of NJ is microscopic when you consider how much surface of the earth is covered in water. Not only that, you can grow it in "3D", so you can grow thousands of percent more Algae per acre of SURFACE than you could, say, CORN--that "darling" of the biofuel industry.

      Due to the low Energy Return on Energy Invested inherent to biofuels, you can't really make the stuff too far from its point of use, as the transport of the material would exceed its energy value.

      I've heard, in fact, that Algae biofuel is MORE THAN 3000 PERCENT MORE ENERGY DENSE THAN CORN ETHANOL. Even myths about corn ethanol taking more energy to produce than it provides has been dispelled (though corn ethanol IS only a fraction as efficient as petroleum fuel and thus not a good alternative). As a matter of fact, if you set aside an area of ocean near the shore about the size of NJ, not only would it produce enough jet fuel to feed EWR/JFK traffic--it would be enough to fuel ALL FLIGHTS AND AUTOMOTIVE TRAFFIC IN THE UNITED STATES.

      The problem with algae fuel isn't growing the stuff (supply far exceed demand--it is often the byproduct of water pollution), or how much energy it provides (quite a lot in fact). The problem is that until now almost nothing has been invested in refining the stuff--virtually all the fuel refineries in the world are designed to refine "dead dinosaur residue". he refining infrastructure investment requirement to process that much algae is MASSIVE, which is the single biggest reason we don't all run our cars on algae today.

      I suggest you move to where you like to live, so you can plan out your future, because in a few short decades, you're not going anywhere cheaply or quickly.

      Thanks for the advice, Chicken Little, I'll take it under advisement.

      Of course, our society is extremely wasteful and energy inefficient right now when compared to potential, so ignoring efforts in reducing energy use overall perhaps the sky will indeed fall. However, nothing of the sort will happen as we learn to do everything more efficiently.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SlayerofGods (682938)

      According to the washington post [washingtonpost.com] it would take only 15,000 square miles to replace all the oil used in the United States which includes the oil costs to move oil around.
      Which sound huge right? Luckly this country is pretty damn big, with lots of pretty useless areas....
      The Mojave Desert for instance is over 22,000 square miles.
      While you obvious can't covert the whole thing and dump it all in one place you can probably still find lots of place to stick huge tanks of this stuff, and the tech is only going to

    • you would need to convert most of northern NJ into one giant goo pile

      Your point being? (i.e., and the downside would be?)

  • Not that exciting? (Score:5, Informative)

    by henrygb (668225) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:12PM (#26388433)
    It is well known that biofuels can (at a cost) be refined to meet most specifications. Providing there is some mineral fuel in the blend to prevent microbial contamination and growth, using this should cause no problems apart from cost. But since jet kerosene is generally untaxed, it is harder to subsidise biofuel replacements than it is for road fuels.
  • Is this really an Environmentally-friendly change, or just ensuring that it's a fuel that can be supplied long-term (not limited like fossil fuels)?

    Consider these points before agreeing that it truly benefits the environment:

    - what energy and chemicals goes into the growing, harvesting, and processing of the plants to make it into fuel? What CO2/pollution does that create?

    - the land used to grow the crops... are we displacing food crops? Would that land otherwise have sequest

    • by Shados (741919)

      Considering the insane amount of fuel that goes into a single flight (i think a single transcontinental flight takes more fuel than a car during the lifetime of its owner), this can't be good. As you said, we are displacing food crops, which is part of the reason behind raising food costs. Making humans starve can't be a very good change. Thats how wars start.

      • by init100 (915886)

        i think a single transcontinental flight takes more fuel than a car during the lifetime of its owner

        That may be true, but using cars to transport the same amount of people the same distance would use more fuel at least if you count on only the driver (and no passengers) in each car. And with US-style cars, you could probably add two passengers in each car, and still have the 747 come out as the more efficient alternative.

        A typical Boeing 747-400ER configuration has a maximum fuel capacity of 241140 liters of fuel, a maximum range (fully loaded) of 14205 km and a seating capacity of 416 passengers. This am

        • by Shados (741919)

          Yes, you're right. I was more thinking in absolute than relative though (basically I was trying to show how much fuel was in a plane, wasn't talking about efficiency, hehe..though keep in mind its not uncommon for a plane to be mostly empty, not just cars). Regardless of how efficient it is, its a LOT of fuels. Just the little bit of bio fuel that is used in consumer grade gazoline right now had a visible impact on food prices, for example. Imagine if you start loading planes with that stuff, ESPECIALLY if

      • Aircraft are still more efficient per passenger-mile than other popular means of transportation. A loaded 747 gets roughly 100 passenger-miles per gallon. Most American cars, even when loaded with passengers and luggage, can't manage that. Ships are even worse; cruise ships are lucky to get 10 passenger-miles per gallon.

        So until electric cars or high-speed rail services take off, don't complain about aircraft.

        Also, biofuel sources like jatropha and algae don't displace food crops, unless you define anyth

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jeffmeden (135043)

      As long as the CO2 is coming from a truly "renewable" source (meaning that CO2 went into it during it's production) and it's production doesn't involve improperly disposing of some toxic chemical (the EPA does a relatively fair job of this,) how much more environmentally friendly can you ever expect capitalists to get?

      We could argue all day about how a car trip through the countryside hurt the feelings of a pair of owls and now they aren't talking to each other and their population is in decline and all of

    • - what energy and chemicals goes into the growing, harvesting, and processing of the plants to make it into fuel? What CO2/pollution does that create?

      That's why biofuel is good. It's basically co2 neutral since any co2 release when burning it the same amount you removed from the atmosphere when you were growing it. Once up and running the factory would have 0 impact on the environment other than simply the land it takes up.

      the land used to grow the crops... are we displacing food crops? Would that land otherwise have sequestered CO2 long term (benefitting us), whereas now we're taking that carbon and putting it back into the atmosphere

      That's a big selling points of algae. You can build the factory anywhere there is sun light, deserts for example. And if you want to sequester the co2 just run your bio fuel factory and just pump the oil it makes back underground.

    • Algae are the most promising because you can grow them on refuse and sun-light. The energy captured is sun-light - think of it as biological solar panels. The processing of algae is not where it needs to be right now, but they're the best long-term bet.

  • I'm all for biofuels and algae is certainly promising, but AFAIK, it's nowhere near industrial production yet. (cellulosic ethanol is getting there though)

    Note that it says:

    The biofuel used in the demonstration flight was a blend of two different types of alternative oils - algae and jatropha.

    They don't say how much algae-derived biofuel was in that mix. I'm guessing this is rather a way for the company involved to get attention and hence, more funding. I suppose the ends justify the means, though. It take

  • Which airline? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:28PM (#26388637) Homepage Journal
    The description

    A US airline carrier

    Is rather vague. Would it kill the editors to read the first line of the article itself to see

    The 90-minute flight by a Continental Boeing 737-800 went better than expected, a spokesperson said.

    Considering how poorly many of the carriers are doing in terms of finances and customer satisfaction (not to mention customer service) it could be useful to know which one is trying the biofuel, even if it was a short test.

  • Hydrogen (Score:2, Informative)

    by BlueParrot (965239)

    In many ways liquid hydrogen would be an ideal aviation fuel. It is clean, has a high energy/weight ratio, it has already been demonstrated ( The Russians developed a Hydrogen passenger Jet during the first Oil crisis ), it scales and because airlines have much more predictable traffic patterns than does your home car, you don't need to store it for days or weeks, meaning the cooling and insulation systems can be much simpler.

    The catch is the cost of producing hydrogen in an environmentally friendly manner.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by init100 (915886)

      So how do you store it while in the aircraft? AFAIK, hydrogen needs to be compressed to a very high pressure, which requires heavy steel gas flasks for storage, not fuel tanks made of thin aluminium sheets as those used on aircraft today.

      • There's two ways that are practical for aviation. One is using pressure, with the problems you mentioned. The other is to cool it to cryogenic temperatures, meaning you will need insulation. Fortunately insulation can be made comparatively light, the problem is that cooling the hydrogen to cryogenic temperatures requires a lot of energy, adding to the already expensive production of it.

        Basically there's no technical obstacles to using hydrogen. Heck it's low weight makes it the fuel of choice for many space

  • by Stele (9443)

    In February 2008, a Virgin 747 flew from London to Amsterdam partly using a fuel derived from a blend of Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts.

    Yeah but were those African or European coconuts?

  • The airlines will never admit to doing this once it has been many years that way they can keep bitching about the gas prices, and overcharge you until the day comes they will let it be known they have been flying for some time now. I doubt very much the price of tickets will go down just because they save money doing this.

  • at least not at the universe im in. the aircraft they carry flies.

Every nonzero finite dimensional inner product space has an orthonormal basis. It makes sense, when you don't think about it.

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