As world leaders are gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for the United Nation’s 26th conference on climate change — also known as COP26 — GE Aviation is developing technologies to help improve the sustainability of commercial flight by reducing CO2 emissions and partnering across the aviation industry to reduce flight emissions now and in the future.
Here, we’ve listed five ways GE Aviation is rising to the challenge with technology innovation and collaboration.
1. Flying net zero
In October, members of Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), including GE Aviation, adopted a long-term climate goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, confirming the aviation industry’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions in support of the Paris Agreement 1.5ºC goal. This follows an earlier industry goal set in 2009.
Meeting the long-term net-zero goal requires the industry to deploy revolutionary technologies to reduce emissions and to advocate for increased use and availability of alternative fuels, such as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and hydrogen.
GE Aviation is advancing bold technology solutions including open fan, hybrid electric, and new engine core designs to reduce CO2 emissions.
2. Advancing Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
Increased supply and use of alternative fuels is critical to helping the aviation industry reach its goals to reduce, and even eliminate, carbon emissions from commercial flights around the world.
All GE Aviation and CFM International* engines can operate with approved SAF, which is produced from alternative feedstocks and processes, lowering lifecycle carbon emissions compared to petroleum-based fuels.
GE has been actively involved in assessing and qualifying SAF since 2007 and works closely with producers, regulators, and operators to help ensure that SAF can be widely adopted for use in aviation.
3. Breakthrough propulsion technologies
GE Aviation has embarked on multiple engine technology demonstrators to accelerate emissions-lowering technologies for aircraft propulsion. It’s currently one of the most extensive technology development, maturation and testing plans in the company’s history.
Partnering with NASA, GE Aviation announced in October 2021 it launched a program to mature an integrated megawatt class hybrid electric powertrain. This will demonstrate flight readiness of a hybrid electric propulsion system for single-aisle aircraft, with ground and flight tests taking place by the mid-2020s.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also announced in September 2021 that GE Aviation has received its third Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) award since 2010. Funding helps support development of GE’s open fan, electrification, acoustics and other technologies, as well as ongoing research into alternative jet fuels such as SAF.
In June 2021, GE Aviation and Safran launched the CFM RISE Program targeting more than 20 percent lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared to today’s most efficient engines. Technologies matured as part of the RISE Program will serve as the foundation for the next-generation CFM engine that could be available by the mid-2030s. Central to the program is state-of-the-art propulsive efficiency for the engine, including advanced architectures like the open fan.
In Europe, GE’s Italian entity, Avio Aero, has contributed to the development and testing of open fan engine architectures by supporting Europe’s Clean Sky research program. Additionally, research efforts with Clean Sky have contributed to development of GE’s Catalyst turboprop engine, which is designed to improve fuel efficiency compared to other turboprop engines available in the market.
4. GE’s 360 Foam Wash
GE’s 360 Foam Wash is an alternative to the water wash method. It restores engine performance leading to reductions in fuel consumption. The process involves injecting a specially-formulated, proprietary solution that removes dust and dirt particles in the engine.
The system is self-contained, allowing it to be used inside maintenance hangars or outdoors. GE’s 360 Foam Wash is approved for use on multiple GE engine programs, including models of GE90, GEnx, CF34 and CF6.
During technology trials with the 360 Foam Wash solution, some customers have seen improved engine performance by reducing build-up of deposits in the engine, lowering engine exhaust temperatures, and improving engine compressor efficiency. These improvements led to reduced fuel consumption and increased engine time on wing.
5. Shared industry commitments
When GE Aviation Chief Engineer Chris Lorence met in London before COP26 with his counterparts of the largest aerospace manufacturers, he found familiar faces with a shared goal: a reaffirmed commitment to reduce CO2 emissions aligned with industry-wide ATAG targets.
That’s just one example of how GE Aviation is partnering across the industry to reduce CO2 emissions.
The jet engine maker is also supporting customers in their initiatives. Etihad Airways on October 23 operated a flight that reduced carbon emissions 72% from a comparable flight in 2019. That October flight was equipped with GE Digital’s Fuel Insight software and GEnx engines that were cleaned with GE’s 360 Foam Wash.
JOIN THE TEAM: GE Aviation is hiring engineers to help develop more sustainable technologies for aviation. Find open jobs here.