Better, More Expensive Fuels May Lower Costs

08.31.2005 | Energy and Environment, Engineering, ResearchAir travelers looking for relief from rising ticket prices should focus on the activities of the nation's research universities rather than the world's oil markets.

A University of Dayton researcher said airline costs related to fuel and engine maintenance costs will see relief in the next few years because of better fuel technology and airlines retrofitting aircraft with newer, more-efficient engines.

"This result isn't going to be 15 to 25 years from now. It's going to be in five to seven years," said Dilip Ballal, director of UD's von Ohain Fuels and Combustion Center. "Some airlines, with willpower and the ability to find money, could retrofit their engines now."

Research and development of better fuels will add a few cents per gallon to the cost of fuel. However, it will pay for itself by allowing planes to fly farther on less fuel and reducing maintenance caused by fuel deposits gumming up engines.

"Operational costs will be reduced by a significant factor," Ballal said.

Ballal said five top industry executives expressed concerns about fuel costs in the growing aero engine market at a recent American Society of Mechanical Engineers Turbo Exposition.

"The industry is clamoring for this research. There is pressure on everyone to reduce costs," said Ballal, co-author of "Progress in Aero Engine Technology from 1939-2003." "The question now is, 'how do we improve fuels.'"

The answer is finding a fuel that can efficiently cool hot sections of jet engines without creating deposits
In the aircraft's fuel system. Advanced fuel cooling systems could allow engine turbines to run much hotter than the current limit of 3100 degrees. In turn, engine fuel consumption and maintenance costs will decrease.

The University of Dayton Research Institute is conducting its research into aviation fuels with the U.S. Air Force Research Lab's Propulsion Directorate, turbine engine division. UD leads all other Ohio universities in aerospace research, according to the Ohio Aerospace Institute, and is the top Catholic university in non-medical research, according to the National Science Foundation.

For media interviews, contact Dilip Ballal at (937) 229-3961.