New Technology

Boeing tests advanced jet engine technology at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi

Innovations in technology and engineering play a key role in continuously improving the environmental performance of our products.

More than 75 percent of Boeing’s commercial airplane R&D efforts contribute to advancing environmentally progressive innovations.

Designing with the environment in mind means our engineers “design in” greater efficiency in energy and water use and sustainable materials and “design out” carbon emissions, hazardous materials and community noise. We call the strategy Design for Environment. It analyzes and reduces a product’s environmental footprint over its life cycle, starting with design and manufacturing and extending through in-service use and end-of-service recycling and disposal.

In 2012 we successfully met key milestones in research and development programs that will bring to market the next generation of more fuel-efficient airplanes and accelerate the market readiness of advanced materials and environmentally progressive technologies.


Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator Program accelerates technology that will improve the environmental performance and sustainability of the aviation industry. Each ecoDemonstrator airplane tests and applies new technologies and materials that make Boeing aircraft cleaner, quieter and more fuel-efficient.

A key part of the ecoDemonstrator Program is a unique partnership with the airlines, aviation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration’s CLEEN (Continuous Lower Energy Emissions and Noise) program. Over the next several years, the FAA will help fund parts of the program; for example, testing of airframe and engine technologies designed to increase the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and community noise.

The ecoDemonstrator program’s inaugural flight in 2012 used a Next-Generation 737-800 in partnership with American Airlines to test a range of innovations, including:

  • Wing-adaptive trailing edges to reduce noise and improve fuel efficiency at takeoff, climb and cruising altitudes.
  • A regenerative hydrogen fuel cell as an alternative source of cabin power with the potential to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
  • Advanced flight trajectory and in-flight planning technology that enable more fuel-efficient routes and future improvements in air traffic management.

Meredith Anderson, flight test engineering analyst, collects data and monitors the performance aboard the inaugural ecoDemonstrator airplane. (Boeing photo)

The second ecoDemonstrator, scheduled to fly in late 2013, will use a 787 Dreamliner to test a new suite of emerging technologies. One innovative engine technology selected for the demonstration flight is an exhaust nozzle made of ceramic matrix composite material, designed to make engines quieter, lighter and more efficient. (See ‘Taking the Heat’ feature article on this page.)

New-generation high-efficiency jet engines emit hotter exhaust gases and require materials that can withstand higher temperatures than titanium or super alloys, which have been industry standard for decades. Boeing researchers believe ceramic-based material could better support higher performing, more efficient jet engines that will reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions.

Aircraft Recycling

The end of an aircraft’s commercial service does not mean the end of use for its components and materials. Recycling airplanes significantly reduces waste and cuts the need for new materials, which helps reduce aviation’s overall environmental footprint. Advanced composite carbon fibers and metals such as aluminum are among the materials that can be recycled into new products.

Boeing was a leader in forming the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association, which has grown to more than 40 members committed to the goal of recycling up to 90 percent of a retired airplane by 2016. Boeing is leading industry efforts to continue researching and developing improved recycling technologies and processes.

Boeing also collaborates with the University of Nottingham, England, on developing carbon fiber recycling processes and technology to process recycled fiber into new applications and products.

A hydrokinetic turbine is readied for placement in the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, Canada

A hydrokinetic turbine is readied for placement in the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, Canada. Boeing and Canadian firm Renewable Energy Research are collaborating on expanding the use of this new source of hydroelectric power. In January 2013, Boeing and RER signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Quebec to install a six-turbine pilot project in the St. Lawrence River. The turbines provide consistent power without disrupting the river flow or surrounding natural habitat. (Boeing photo)


Cooling Without Power -- New Cabin Technology

Innovative technology that reduces the environmental impacts of air travel isn’t limited to the aircraft’s fuselage or engines. Boeing has designed an insulated galley cart that will keep food and beverages cold for up to 17 hours without the use of traditional chillers, which are heavy and noisy and require significant maintenance and power.

The lighter cart reduces the aircraft’s weight, which also cuts fuel use and carbon emissions. Engineers estimate the insulated cart could save approximately 5 million pounds (2,300 metric tons) of fuel and 15.8 million pounds (7,200 metric tons) of carbon dioxide over the service life of a single 777.

The insulated carts won a 2013 Crystal Cabin Award, an international environmental recognition from the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, which is the largest aircraft cabin interiors show in the world.

Boeing previously won a Crystal Cabin award for co-designing 100 percent recyclable aircraft carpet tiles. Boeing and supplier InterfaceFLOR developed the carpet, which reduces the use of raw materials in production and the amount of waste sent to landfills.