A Diamond DA42 NG has been used to demonstrate the first flight powered by pure biofuel made from algae.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) showcased the world first at the recent Berlin International Air Show using a DA42 NG powered by two Austro Engine AE300 engines.

Due to the higher energy content of the algae biofuel, the fuel consumption of the Diamond DA42 NG is 1.5 litres per hour lower than that of conventional JET-A1 fuel – while maintaining equal performance. Tests have also proved that only relatively minor modifications and adjustments had to be made to the aircraft’s engines to qualify the biofuel for the demonstration flights.

“Our pure biofuel flight from algae is a world first and an exciting milestone in our research at EADS,” Dr Jean Botti, EADS' Chief Technical Officer said. “This opens up the feasibility of carbon-neutral flights and we will continue to focus our research in this exciting area. Third-generation biofuels are more than just a replacement for fossil petroleum - they push the possibilities of future propulsion.”

Algae are considered to be promising potential feedstock for biofuels as certain species contain high amounts of oil. Grown for many years on a commercial basis for the development of products such as food supplements and cosmetics, microalgae have now emerged as one of the leading sources for alternative fuels. Algae can be grown on poor-quality land using non-potable or saltwater.

The exhaust gas quality measurements indicate that biofuel from algae contains eight times fewer hydrocarbons than kerosene derived from crude oil. In addition, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions will also be reduced due to the very low nitrogen and sulfur content of the biofuel compared to fossil fuel.

All necessary technologies to develop the production of biofuel from algae are already known, but industrial size and economy require further development. EADS is working with partners towards a pilot project to develop the necessary industrial infrastructure.

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