Alternative energy sources offer the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are pioneering advancements in environmentally progressive energy sources in three key fields.
To highlight the technical feasibility of using biofuels in a commercial jetliner, we conducted the first commercial aviation flight using a sustainable biofuel mixed with traditional kerosene-based fuel in February 2008 with Virgin Atlantic and GE Aviation. In addition to conducting engine ground testing with Pratt & Whitney, we will conduct joint biofuel demonstration flights in 2008 with Air New Zealand and Rolls-Royce and in 2009 with Continental Airlines and GE Aviation, with an initial emphasis on sustainable biofuels that could be applied to the existing airplane fleet to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Since first-generation biofuels may compete with food stocks, Boeing has always been focused on sustainably grown, advanced-generation biofuels. The chart on this page highlights the relative energy density of various types of biofuels.
Our wholly owned subsidiary Spectrolab is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of solar cells, powering everything from satellites and interplanetary missions to renewable solar energy companies in California, Arizona, and Australia. Spectrolab’s Earth-based concentrator cells currently hold the world’s record with 40.7 percent efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity—and the company is pioneering new technologies anticipated to yield further improvements.
Fuel cells directly convert hydrogen into heat and electricity without combustion, reducing the need for conventional fuels, eliminating emissions (except for heat and water), and lowering noise. Fuel-cell technology holds promise in providing cleaner, quieter operation of secondary airplane power systems. Led by Madrid-based Boeing Research & Technology Europe, we recently conducted experimental flight tests of a Boeing Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell/lithium-ion battery system in February and March 2008 in Ocaña, Spain, celebrating the first flight of a manned airplane powered by hydrogen fuel cells in aviation history. We continue to study additional fuel cell technologies, including a Solid Oxide fuel cell.