written by: Raunekk•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 3/3/2010
The increase in global warming and rise in fuel prices have forced airlines owners around the world to implement environmentally friendly technologies on their airplanes. These green technologies will not only help in reducing the carbon emission but will also increase efficiency of the planes.
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The airline industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the market today. The increase in the number of people flying can be termed as one of the reasons for this. Whatever the reason, the rising toll has not only increased air-traffic but has also immensely pressurized the environment. In fact, the present situation has acclaimed the aviation industry as one of the major sinners affecting the environment, thanks to carbon and greenhouse emissions resulting in climate change. Though efforts like carbon offsetting are being worked upon, it seems that these steps won’t result in major changes or would take several years to bring in favorable results. For this reason, airlines have themselves started using green technologies on board to minimize the carbon foot print left behind. What are these green technologies? Let's find out.
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No stones are being left unturned and every option is being considered to cover aviation industry in green drapery. Moreover, rising crude oil prices have also lead airplanes to switch to bio-fuels under the context of environmental sustainability. For this reason, immense research is being conducted to learn about the viability of biofuels. You can read more about biofuels in the next article of this series.
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Alternate Sources of Power
Apart from biofuels, green technologies such as solar powered, manned and unmanned aircrafts could be the next big thing. Although these projects have been tested for many years, it seems civilian application will finally come to pass with the global warming movement. Scientists are also in talks to reduce dependency on fossil fuels through nuclear powered aircraft, a concept which was earlier used only for military purpose with unmanned air vehicles. If the technology is used to carry passengers, refueling planes time and again, will soon be a thing of the past. Other concepts such as battery powered engines or a combination of solar and hydrogen powered engines (hybrid) are also in the pipeline.
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Changes in Aircraft Design
Steps are also being taken to manage air-traffic and this is not done by appointing traffic cops but, by designing airplanes that ultimately lead to efficiencies. Cut-throat competition results in lower prices and airlines need to search for alternatives to reduce the capital cost. Inspired by birds, both government and companies are working together to decide on energy-efficient routes. Research suggests that birds choose a new route everyday and fly without large vertical tail-fin, to save on the energy. Planes, designed on similar lines with a blended wing body design, which balance the forces of aero-dynamics and also negate the need for a tail, are now being made. Green aircrafts are also designed with narrow bodies and light-weight structures. Some also use two open rotor engines above a wide-tail fin, made from carbon composites. The open-rotor engines installed reduce carbon emissions up to 25% and the fan-blade at the backside also saves a lot on fuel. Substantial steps have been taken in the past few years to improve the designs of the planes in order to increase their efficiency and also to reduce emissions.
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Redefining Green Engines
According to another school of thought, green engines are entirely being re-designed to suite the current market need and environmental conditions. These engines are manufactured from non-toxic materials/ components and fitted with parts that do not corrode during use. Not only are the parts environmentally sustainable, but also their manufacturing processes. There are no pollutants released during the whole production, maintenance and re-working process. Moreover, engine operation is free from noise and air emissions. At the post utility period, the components and other materials of the aircraft can be recovered and reused.
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Green Technologies on the Interior
Apart from this major overhauling process, initiatives are also being taken to re-design the interior of aircraft. Plans are being worked out to reduce the aircraft weight by around five pounds, resulting into fuel-saving as well as reduction in emission and wastes. Options are also being worked out to use recyclable materials wherever possible. While recycled carpets are a good alternative, leather alternatives for upholstery products on the seat-covers will not only reduce weight by almost two pounds but will also prove durable. Even scuff resistant products that are made from recycled materials rejected by the leather industry could also be put to use. The seats can be filled with foam to reduce weight. Also, airplanes will now be fitted with high capacity, low speed fans that help reduce noise-pollution.
Although there’s still time needed to produce a full fledged green airplane, the current steps taken doesn’t make it a Utopian dream anymore. However, this is for sure that aviation industry took this step not just to save earth from global warming but to save itself from rising costs. Whatever is the reason, if the above mentioned steps are implemented successfully, earth and its citizens will be able to breathe a sigh of green relief in near future.
The increase in carbon emission from the airline industry is taking a toll on the environment leading to problems such as climate change and various natural calamities. To fight against this, the airline industry is in the process of taking some drastic steps which will change the way you fly.