On January 10, 2018, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the next phase of its international collaboration to study the impact of biofuels on jet engine performance, emissions, and contrail formation. In February, NASA’s DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory will sample and analyze gases and particles present in the wake of the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) Advanced Technology Research Aircraft (ATRA) A320 aircraft as it burns alternative biofuels. Eight joint DC-8/A320 flights are planned to sample three different fuels at a variety of altitudes and airspeeds under contrail forming and non-contrail forming conditions. The objective of the project is to assess the effects of alternative fuels on aircraft engine performance and emissions, particularly regarding the impact of soot from those emissions on the size, concentration, and lifetime of contrail ice particles.

The research is a continuation of NASA’s investigation on the impact of biofuels on jet engine pollution, as previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post NASA Confirms Biofuels Reduce Jet Engine Pollution. Compared to previous experiments, NASA will be flying where contrails form and persist, which will provide more opportunities for gathering data, and will be analyzing data using a much more extensive instrument.