Pilotless Cargo Flights By 2025

Pilotless planes would save airlines $35bn (£27bn) a year and could lead to substantial fare cuts – if passengers were able to stomach the idea of remote-controlled flying, according to new research. The savings for carriers could be huge, said investment bank UBS, even though it may take until the middle of the century for passengers to have enough confidence to board a pilotless plane. UBS estimated that pilots cost the industry $31bn a year, plus another $3bn in training, and that fully automated planes would fly more efficiently, saving another $1bn a year in fuel.

Passengers could benefit from a reduction in ticket prices of about a tenth, the report said. “The average percentage of total cost and average benefit that could be passed onto passengers in price reduction for the US airlines is 11%,” it said, although the savings in Europe would be less, at 4% on average but rising to 8% at RyanairAircraft costs and fuel make up a much larger proportion of costs at airlines than pilot salaries, but UBS said profits at some major airlines could double if they switched to pilotless.

More than half of the 8,000 people UBS surveyed, however, said they would refuse to travel in a pilotless plane, even if fares were cut. “Some 54% of respondents said they were unlikely to take a pilotless flight, while only 17% said they would likely undertake a pilotless flight. Perhaps surprisingly, half of the respondents said that they would not buy the pilotless flight ticket even if it was cheaper,” the report said. It added, however, that younger and more educated respondents were more willing to fly on a pilotless plane. “This bodes well for the technology as the population ages,” it said.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/

Algae To Power Jets

Aviation giant Airbus hope algae could one day help power jets – and help airlines cut their C02 emissions. They’re working with the Munich Technical University (Germany) to cultivate the photosynthetic organisms in this lab. Algae here is cultivated in water with a salt content of 6-9 percent. A combination of light and carbon dioxide does the rest.


Primarily you need obviously algae cells that are able to generate fats and oils. In combination with CO2 and light these algae cells propagate and form algae biomass and under certain cultivation conditions, for example the lack of nitrogen in the cultivation media, these algae cells accumulate fats and oils in their cell mass and this can reach up to 50 to 70 percent of the total cell weight. That is quite a lot and once you formed that fat and oil you can actually extract it from the cell and convert it over a chemical process“, says  Thomas Brueck, Professor at Munich Technical University (TUM). In these open tanks algae grows 12 times faster than plants cultivated on soil, producing an oil yield 30 times that of rapeseed.

Algae fuel today is still in the state of research so today, we could probably not offer it at costs which are realistic to run an airline. But we are sure that over time, we will make it possible to offer kerosine made of algae for a competitive price“, comments Gregor von Kursell, Airbus Group Spokesman. The company says the project remains in its infancy. Researchers believe biofuel from algaculture could provide up to 5 percent of jetfuel needs by around 2050.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/

Solar Fuel Cell For Hydrogen Electric Car

Why not a solar cell that that produces fuel rather than electricity? Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) (Netherlands) and FOM Foundation today present a very promising prototype of this in the journal Nature Communications. The material gallium phosphide enables their solar cell to produce the clean fuel hydrogen gas from liquid water. Processing the gallium phosphide in the form of very small nanowires is novel and helps to boost the yield by a factor of ten. And does so using ten thousand times less precious material.

hydrogen electric car
The electricity produced by a solar cell can be used to set off chemical reactions. If this generates a fuel, then one speaks of solar fuels – a hugely promising replacement for polluting fuels. One of the possibilities is to split liquid water using the electricity that is generated (electrolysis). Among oxygen, this produces hydrogen gas that can be used as a clean fuel in the chemical industry or combusted in fuel cells – in cars for example – to drive engines.

To connect an existing silicon solar cell to a battery that splits the water may well be an efficient solution now but it is a very expensive one. Many researchers are therefore targeting their search at a semiconductor material that is able to both convert sunlight into an electrical charge and split the water, all in one; a kind of ‘solar fuel cell’. Researchers at TU/e and FOM see their dream candidate in gallium phosphide (GaP), a compound of gallium and phosphide that also serves as the basis for specific colored leds.

has good electrical properties but the drawback that it cannot easily absorb light when it is a large flat surface as used in GaP solar cells. The researchers have overcome this problem by making a grid of very small GaP nanowires, measuring five hundred nanometers (a millionth of a millimeter) long and ninety nanometers thick. This immediately boosted the yield of hydrogen by a factor of ten to 2.9 percent. A record for GaP cells, even though this is still some way off the fifteen percent achieved by silicon cells coupled to a battery.

According to research leader and TU/e professor Erik Bakkers, it’s not simply about the yield – where there is still a lot of scope for improvement he points out: “For the nanowires we needed ten thousand less precious GaP material than in cells with a flat surface. That makes these kinds of cells potentially a great deal cheaper,” Bakkers says. “In addition, GaP is also able to extract oxygen from the water – so you then actually have a fuel cell in which you can temporarily store your solar energy. In short, for a solar fuels future we cannot ignore gallium phosphide any longer.”

Source: https://www.tue.nl/

Cheap Hydrogen Fuel

The race is on to optimize solar energy’s performance. More efficient silicon photovoltaic panels, dye-sensitized solar cells, concentrated cells and thermodynamic solar plants all pursue the same goal: to produce a maximum amount of electrons from sunlight. Those electrons can then be converted into electricity to turn on lights and power your refrigerator.
hydrogen-electric car At the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) – Switzerland -, led by Michael Grätzel, where scientists invented dye solar cells that mimic photosynthesis in plants, they have also developed methods for generating fuels such as hydrogen through solar water splitting. To do this, they either use photoelectrochemical cells that directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to sunlight, or they combine electricity-generating cells with an electrolyzer that separates the water molecules.

By using the latter technique, Grätzel’s post-doctoral student Jingshan Luo and his colleagues were able to obtain a performance spectacular: their device converts into hydrogen 12.3 percent of the energy diffused by the sun on perovskite absorbers – a compound that can be obtained in the laboratory from common materials, such as those used in conventional car batteries, eliminating the need for rare-earth metals in the production of usable hydrogen fuel. This high efficiency provides stiff competition for other techniques used to convert solar energy. But this method has several advantages over others:
Both the perovskite used in the cells and the nickel and iron catalysts making up the electrodes require resources that are abundant on Earth and that are also cheap,” explained Jingshan Luo. “However, our electrodes work just as well as the expensive platinum-based models customarily used.”
The research is being published today in the journal Science.
Source: http://actu.epfl.ch/

Electric Car: How To Produce Cheap Hydrogen

Rutgers University researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel – a fuel that could replace expensive and environmentally harmful fossil fuels.

The new technology is a novel catalyst that performs almost as well as cost-prohibitive platinum for so-called electrolysis reactions, which use electric currents to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The Rutgers technology is also far more efficient than less-expensive catalysts investigated to-date.
Hydrogen has long been expected to play a vital role in our future energy landscapes by mitigating, if not completely eliminating, our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Tewodros (Teddy) Asefa, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. “We have developed a sustainable chemical catalyst that, we hope with the right industry partner, can bring this vision to life”. He and his colleagues based their new catalyst on carbon nanotubesone-atom-thick sheets of carbon rolled into tubes 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.
carbon nanotubes to produce hydrogen

A new technology based on carbon nanotubes promises commercially viable hydrogen production from water

Finding ways to make electrolysis reactions commercially viable is important because processes that make hydrogen today start with methane – itself a fossil fuel. The need to consume fossil fuel therefore negates current claims that hydrogen is a “green” fuel.
Source: http://news.rutgers.edu

Bionic Particles To Turn Sunlight Into Fuel

Inspired by fictional cyborgs like Terminator, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh has made the first bionic particles from semiconductors and proteins. These particles recreate the heart of the process that allows plants to turn sunlight into fuel.

Human endeavors to transform the energy of sunlight into biofuels using either artificial materials or whole organisms have low efficiency,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Florence B. Cejka Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan, who led the experiment. A bionic approach could change that. The bionic particles blend the strengths of inorganic materials, which can readily convert light energy to electron energy, with biological molecules whose chemical functions have been highly developed through evolution. The team first designed the particles to combine cadmium telluride, a semiconductor commonly used in solar cells, with cytochrome C, a protein used by plants to transport electrons in photosynthesis. With this combination, the semiconductor can turn a ray from the sun into an electron, and the cytochrome C can pull that electron away for use in chemical reactions that could clean up pollution or produce fuel, for instance. U-M‘s Sharon Glotzer, the Stuart W. Churchill Professor of Chemical Engineering, who led the simulations, compares the self-assembly to the way that the surfaces of living cells form, using attractive forces that are strong at small scales but weaken as the structure grows. Kotov’s group confirmed that the semiconductor particles and proteins naturally assemble into larger particles, roughly 100 nanometers (0.0001 millimeters) in diameter.

We merged biological and inorganic in a way that leverages the attributes of both to get something better than either alone,” Glotzer said. Powered by electrons from the cytochrome C, the enzyme could remove oxygen from nitrate molecules. Like the structures that accomplish photosynthesis in plants, the bionic particles took a beating from handling the energy. Nature constantly renews these working parts in plants, and through self-assembly, the particles may also be able to renew themselves.
Source: http://ns.umich.edu/