Concept Hybrid Planes Could Reduce Deadly Air Pollution by 95 Percent
Generally, the environmental cost of flying is high. At cruising altitude, planes emit a steady stream of nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the troposphere, which eventually convert into ozone and fine particulates, an MIT press release noted.
According to the U.S Energy Information Administration, an independent statistic and analysis organization, ozone in the troposphere is harmful to human health and adds to the climate crisis. WWF estimated that if the entire aviation sector were a country, it would be one of the world's top 10 carbon-polluting nations. The compounded effect of ozone at such a low altitude and NOx, which acts as a precursor greenhouse gas, means that aviation is responsible for around five percent of global CO2 emissions annually, at a minimum.
A separate 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study found that aviation emissions' impact on air quality is two to four times worse than its climate impact. NOx, the same poisonous gas generated by diesel vehicles, is a major air pollutant, and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), one of the compounds formed from NOx, is an inhalable air pollutant that causes hazy air. As a result, flying generated enough air pollutants to cause 16,000 premature deaths each year.
According to the EPA, of all particulate matter, PM2.5 poses the greatest risk to human health because it enters the bloodstream after getting inhaled or swallowed and can cause damage throughout the body. Nitrogen oxides have been linked with asthma, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disorders and cancer. They have also recently been linked to permanent vision loss.
Now, MIT engineers have designed a concept airplane that could eliminate 95 percent of aviation's NOx emissions, thereby reducing early deaths by 92 percent, the MIT release said. Researchers published their findings in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.
The new hybrid-electric plane employs a similar design that diesel vehicles use to clean their NOx exhaust. Traditionally, a plane's gas turbines, located under the wings, are what power its propellers. In the hybrid version, the gas turbines would be relocated to the cargo hold, where they would power propellers or fans via an electricity-producing generator, ZD Net reported the team saying.
A redesign would allow for the same power generation of the existing system without air pollution. At the same time, emissions from the generators would be fed into an emissions-control system, which would clean exhaust and convert NOx into nitrogen and water before ejecting them into the atmosphere, Energy Live News reported.
"This would still be a tremendous engineering challenge, but there aren't fundamental physics limitations," Steven Barrett, one of the study's authors and an MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics, said in the press release. "If you want to get to a net-zero aviation sector, this is a potential way of solving the air pollution part of it, which is significant, and in a way that's technologically quite viable."
The bulk of the hybrid-electric system would still fit within the cargo of a commercial plane, where there is ample space. In the study, researchers calculated that their new hybrid-electric system on a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320-like aircraft would require an additional 0.6 percent more fuel to carry the extra weight and fly the plane.
"This would be many, many times more feasible than what has been proposed for all-electric aircraft," Barrett said in the release. "This design would add some hundreds of kilograms to a plane, as opposed to adding many tons of batteries, which would be over a magnitude of extra weight."
While the plane is still just a concept, the team is already taking their research to the next level by designing a zero-impact plane that could fly without creating air pollution or carbon emissions, the MIT release said.
"We need to get to essentially zero net-climate impacts and zero deaths from air pollution," Barrett said in the release. "This current design would effectively eliminate aviation's air pollution problem. We're now working on the climate impact part of it."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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