Design of airports to become smart and environment-friendlier?

9 November 2020
Researchers at TU Hamburg working on sustainable solutions for CO2-neutral aviation

Scientists at the Hamburg University of Technology (TU) launched the four-year "ALIGHT" project in early November to investigate how aircraft and airports might slash carbon dioxide emissions and completely avoid them by 2050 – a goal set by the European Commission. Research is underway with Copenhagen Airport and 14 European partners as part of the international Horizon 2020 research programme through 2024. Under the title "Smart Airports", solutions for achieving CO2-neutral airports are to be developed as well as the required infrastructure. The "ALIGHT" project has received almost EUR 12 million in EU funds and another EUR 3 million from the participating partners.

Airports unprepared for new fuels and energy sources

The Horizon project aims to come up with alternative fuels and designing airports to supply buildings, vehicles and airplanes with e.g. solar power. However, only few airports are prepared for new fuels and energy sources. "Their infrastructure is designed exclusively for the fuels used today," sad Dr. Ulf Neuling, Director of the ALIGHT project at TU. "There is also a lack of suitable procedures for verifying and deducing sustainable fuels, as these are usually mixed with fossil fuels. This complicates the mass use and leads to a huge administrative effort."

Sustainable fuels and energy

For this reason, researchers at the TU Institute of Environmental Technology and Energy Economics are attempting to improve the use of sustainable fuels in aviation. Particular emphasis is on the procurement, blending and fuelling of sustainable fuels as well as on quality control and safety measures. The researchers are also developing intelligent energy solutions for other airport operations including the in-house production of sustainable energy as well as its storage and electrification. Another part of the project aims to develop the airport of the future and backs the use of sustainable aviation fuels as well as electricity and hydrogenApart from the TU Hamburg, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the University of Parma, Copenhagen Airport (CPH) are among the other partners to the ALIGHT project as well as institutions and companies along the entire value chain. 

Research into optimising flight routes

Meanwhile, TU is also researching how flight routes can reduce the impact on the climate as part of the EU-funded "Flying Air Traffic Management for the Benefit of Environment and Climate" (FlyATM4E). The project is developing a concept to identify climate-optimised aircraft routes i.e by detecting conditions and situations with great potential for limiting the impact on the climate at low or zero cost. The project will also provide recommendations on how best to implement these strategies in meteorological services.  


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