Pratt & Whitney Canada to test aircraft biofuels

By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted July 16, 2008 at 10:00 a.m. CST

Pratt & Whitney Canada is leading a four-year project to investigate the use of second generation biofuels for use in small and medium-size engine applications. Biofuels derived from jatropha and algae, as well as biobutanol and first generation ethanol are being considered to power aircraft engines.

The company will be working to develop a flex-fuel jet engine, adaptable to multiple biofuel blends of different types and from different feedstocks. "We aim to have a fuel-flexible engine and to develop technologies that will allow us to offer aircraft manufacturers innovated and green power solutions," said Walter Di Bartolomeo, vice president of engineering for Pratt & Whitney.

The project will study the effect of various biofuels on engine components such as combustors and fuel systems, and develop appropriate technologies and design changes to accommodate them. Test comparisons will be made of current jet fuels with first generation ethanol and second generation biofuels. "Our goal is to develop technologies for fuel flexible gas turbine engines, which can operate with a variety of biofuels and mixtures using the same hardware," explained project leader Sam Sampath, manager and senior fellow, combustion engineering and emissions control at Pratt & Whitney.

Pratt & Whitney Canada, a business unit of Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp., is managing the project and dedicating resources at its research centers in Longueuil, Quebec, and Mississauga, Ontario, to look into engine components and materials changes. Four Canadian institutions McGill University, Laval University, Ryerson University and National Research Council Canada are also participating, along with the Indian Institute of Technology, Science and Petroleum, two major Indian oil companies and Infotech Enterprises Ltd.

The alternative fuel project is one of several initiatives announced recently by the governments of Canada and India under a joint research collaboration in the field of science and technology. The Canadian portion is funded through the International Science and Technology Partnerships Program.