Daytona Beach, Fla., April 24, 2008 -- With an eye on the rising cost of aviation fuel, students in the Society of Aviation Technicians at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University have launched a research project to test the performance characteristics of biofuel in an aircraft engine.
Biofuels are created by converting plant or animal matter, known as biomass, into liquid fuels, most commonly ethanol and biodiesel. The Embry-Riddle students are using a Lycoming four-cylinder aircraft engine to evaluate E85 biofuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that's considered the best alternative to petroleum by the U.S. Department of Energy. The biofuel for the student project is being supplied by Bio Smart Fuel, a refiner and distributor of biofuel committed to formulating new fuels from biological sources to improve performance and reduce harmful emissions while also lowering costs.
"Testing biofuel under controlled conditions in an aircraft engine is an important element in the process of discovering the specific and quantifiable performance values of these fuels," said student Rick Cevallos, lead investigator in the project. "As one of the few renewable energy sources that can directly replace gasoline, it may be the shortest route in cutting the cost of aviation fuel."
The students will assess the performance of biofuel derived not only from corn, as ethanol typically is, but also from several other biomass forms such as cellulose and hemicellulose, the fibrous material that makes up the bulk of most plant matter. The search for new ethanol sources is particularly crucial because land misuse and the rising price of corn are rendering problematical the continued use of corn as the single source of ethanol. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that by 2025 approximately 80 percent of ethanol will come from plant sources other than corn.
Other students taking part in the research project are Gary Duce (deputy lead investigator), Tristan Budhram, Sean Feldmayer, Jason Jones, Kris Joseph, Shanely Liston, Gisela Munoz, Sam Sommerville, David Totaram, and Scott Turner. The team members are enrolled in the Aerospace Engineering, Aviation Maintenance Science, and Homeland Security degree programs at Embry-Riddle.
"This multidisciplinary approach plays to the strength we have here at Embry-Riddle," said Arthur Eldridge, admissions officer for the Aviation Maintenance Science Department and advisor to the Society of Aviation Technicians. "The university encourages students and faculty from different disciplines to work together in areas that foster greater learning opportunities while yielding significant industry data." Aviation Maintenance Science students initiated the biofuel research project in response to a call for abstracts from the Embry-Riddle Honors Program, which promotes notable research projects at the university.
The Society of Aviation Technicians is an Embry-Riddle student club whose members explore and prepare for aviation/aerospace technical careers in maintenance. The group welcomes new members and advisors who share their interest in researching alternate fuel options in aviation. For more information, visit the Society of Aviation Technicians website at www.gocivil.com.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world's largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, offers more than 30 degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Engineering. The university educates more than 34,000 students annually in undergraduate and graduate programs at residential campuses in Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla., through its Worldwide Campus at more than 130 centers in the United States, Europe, Canada, and the Middle East, and through online learning. For more information, visit www.embryriddle.edu.