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Do aviation biofuels really reduce emissions?

Potential human toxicological effects of aviation biofuels also investigated

(sustainabilityenvironment.com) – Do aviation biofuels really reduce greenhouse gas emissions and those harmful to human health? An answer comes today from an Italian study that monitored and analyzed the exhaust of a Rolls-Royce Spey engine by testing it with different blends of kerosene and biofuel. The research project was conducted by scientists from Enea (National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) in collaboration with experts from the Italian Military Air Force to bridge the knowledge gap on the subject. There is still a lack of information on emission factors and potential toxicological effects on humans related to the use of biofuel mixtures in aircraft.

read also USA: 118mln to accelerate production of sustainable biofuels

Experiments have tested HEFA, a synthetic biokerosene obtained by hydrogenation of esters and fatty acids from animal and vegetable fats. The team tested mixtures containing 13% and 17% of HEFA during several engine tests with aircraft on the ground, at the Air Testing and Space Division (DASAS) of the military airport of Pratica di Mare. And he calculated the concentration of pollutants in the airplane’s exhaust gas as a function of the amount of fuel burned. The result? “The two biofuel-based mixtures showed an average reduction of 20% for all tests – and up to 40% for medium engine power speeds – in the emissions of black carbon, that is elemental carbon,” explains Antonella Malaguti, ENEA researcher of the Atmospheric Pollution Laboratory at the Research Centre of Bologna. To which is added on average even up to -30% of volatile organic compounds (VOC). “At the same time, we detected an increase of up to 30% in nitrogen dioxide and the amount of total particles emitted, especially nanoparticles”.

But the most innovative aspect of research is definitely the one related to health. Scientists evaluated the potential biological responses of the human lung to the post-combustion products of aviation biofuels. The investigation showed an increase in the antioxidant response of cells.
The test campaign – said the researcher Maurizio Gualtieri – also highlighted a greater deposition of fine particles and ultrafine, both in the cellular system and lung level, even if this increase should not be attributed primarily to the bio component of fuel mixtures”.

The data in the article – add scientists – refer only to biofuels but a similar speech can be made for traditional fuel. This increased response suggests that exposure to emissions triggers acute oxidizing processes at the cellular level which, when associated with lung deposition data, trigger a warning about the effects of repeated exposure to these emissions over time”. The study was published in the international journal Toxics.

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