FAA partners with Pratt & Whitney and research institutions to study non-CO2 aircraft engine emissions

March 22, 2024

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - The Federal Aviation Administration has tapped Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, Conn. to team with the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Aerodyne Research, Inc. in Billerica, Mass. to study non-carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft engines with the aim of understanding and reducing the environmental impact of those emissions.

As part of the FAA's ASCENT program, the project will measure emissions from a Pratt & Whitney GTF engine combustor rig test stand using conventional Jet A and 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Pratt & Whitney is a business unit of RTX. 

The project will compare emissions from Jet A kerosene and SAF comprised of 100% Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (HEFA-SPK), a biofuel derived from vegetable oils and animal fats; World Energy supplies the fuel.

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The rig tests will take place at Pratt & Whitney's facility in Middletown, Conn., using an advanced Rich-Quench-Lean (RQL) combustor. The rig allows testing of the full range of combustor operating conditions, including at take-off, ground, and cruise altitudes, to help understand the environmental and emissions benefits of using SAF. Pratt & Whitney, the FAA, Missouri S&T, Aerodyne Research, and the EPA will collaborate on test design, execution, and emissions data analysis.

"As the aviation industry targets a goal of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, we continue to pay close attention to addressing the environmental impact of other emissions, including cruise non-volatile particulate matter and NOx," said Sean Bradshaw, senior technical fellow of sustainable propulsion at Pratt & Whitney. "Combustor rig tests with 100% SAF provide a controlled environment for generating valuable baseline data, which will support future studies using full-scale engines on-wing at ground and flight test conditions."
Known as the Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment, ASCENT receives funding from key entities including the FAA, NASA, the Department of Defense, Transport Canada, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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ASCENT employs a science-driven approach to devise innovative solutions. The center is committed to mitigating aviation's environmental footprint with the support of 16 U.S. research universities and over 60 private sector stakeholders.

"By bringing together expertise from industry, government, and academia, this project represents an important step towards understanding and reducing the environmental impacts of aviation, including those arising from non-CO2 emissions," said Dr. Philip Whitefield of Missouri University of Science and Technology. "SAF containing low sulfur and aromatic hydrocarbon concentrations could contribute to reduced sulfur dioxide and non-volatile particulate emissions, which are associated with contrail formation and the impact to global warming."  

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