Introducing the World’s first PLANT-POWERED PLANE

19 February 2019

Lab Chat

Humans’ alarmingly high carbon footprint is a concern for most people around the world. Well, that may be about to change with the world’s first sustainably-fuelled commercial flight. Etihad Airways Boeing 787 plane recently flew from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam, powered using locally produced sustainable fuel.

We’ve all heard of biofuel being used to power cars, whether its chip fat or corn, biofuel-powered vehicles are in use around the world. But sustainable fuel hasn’t been used to power an aircraft, until now. The flight was powered with fuel derived from plants grown in saltwater. Extensive research has been conducted into the possibility and safety of using jet fuel that has been produced using desert, land and sea water, through an innovative agricultural process.

Huge step towards an eco-friendlier world

While over 160,000 passenger flights have been powered by a blend of sustainable and traditional jet fuel since 2011, this Etihad Airways flight is the first aircraft to fly using plant-derived fuel. This means the world now has an alternative fuel source for flights, which can help to massively reduce carbon emissions globally.

The unique fuel was produced in the UAE at the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), which is a non-profit resource at Masdar Institute, part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology. The Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS) in Masdar City was the home of the fuel production. Salicornia plants, or glasswort or picklegrass, were used to generate oil which was them transformed into jet fuel.

The SEAS farm is the first desert ecosystem in the world that produces fuel and food in saltwater. Fish and shrimp are also raised in the farm, providing nutrients for the plants and helping to reduce the amount of imported seafood for the UAE. Vice president of strategy and market development for Boeing International, Sean Schwinn, believes that “Etihad’s flight proves that SEAS is a game-changer that can substantially benefit air transport and the world”.

This world first contributes massively towards the aviation industry’s goal of capping the growth of carbon emissions by 2020. They aim to reduce emission levels by 50% of what they were in 2005, by 2050. This Boeing 787 is just the start of a brighter, eco-friendlier way of travelling the world.

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