As I wrote the other day, the USDA has been working on jet biodiesel since at least 2001. I contacted one of the Ph.Ds in charge of the research, Robert Dunn, asking about an update for AutoblogGreen readers (because we fly from time to time, right) and he sent back a nice, succinct response.

"The work that was reported five years ago was conducted as part of research project on development of biodiesel for transportation and other applications. Our interest in looking at aviation fuel applications was the result of several contacts with a consultant who was interested in developing an alternative fuel with improved performance and emissions characteristics. Biodiesel is very similar to No. 2 grade diesel fuel in many respects and it seemed natural to take a look at aviation fuels since these fuels are produced from a lower grade diesel fuel (refined kerosene).

"Although our current research plan continues to focus mainly on development of biodiesel for "on the ground" transportation applications, we have set up a cooperative agreement with another consultant with Alternative Aviation Fuels LLC on development of a pilot-scale process to improve the cold flow properties of biodiesel and make it more attractive as an aviation fuel. (Biodiesel has poor cold flow properties with respect to jet fuel, so blending the two fuels will affect aircraft operations since air temperature decreases with altitude). {snip} Once the pilot-scale process is developed, we look forward to producing enough improved biodiesel to perform some performance and emission studies on aircraft engines."

Thanks, Robert.

[Source: Robert Dunn]

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