RMIT Student Project on Cryogenic Liquid Methane Aircraft Reaches Airbus Finals

| Australia, Melbourne
RMIT's CLiMA design Bio-LNG answer for aviation

RMIT’s CLiMA team design a Bio-LNG answer for aviation

A team of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) aerospace engineering students is headed to France after making it to the final five of an international Airbus competition. The Cryogenic Liquid Methane Aircraft (CLiMA) team is one of five finalists selected by experienced Airbus engineers from more than 618 submissions in the 2013 Fly Your Ideas global university challenge. The UNESCO-backed competition encourages students to develop ideas for a more sustainable aviation industry.

Team CLiMA will be flown to Toulouse to present their projects to a panel of Airbus and industry experts on 12 June, alongside the other finalists from Brazil, India, Italy and Malaysia.

The team of aerospace engineering students – Luke Spiteri, Mark Spiteri, Martin Burston, Katherine Grigoriou and James Herringer – delivered a proposal for the development of aircraft fuelled by a blend of sustainably-produced liquefied biomethane and liquefied natural gas. The Bio-LNG will be stored in wing-mounted tanks insulated to preserve the cryogenic-induced liquid state.

The approach addresses the high economic cost of current jet fuel, with LNG generally being about 20% of the cost, while also producing fewer emissions. According to a European Commission Climate Action report, direct emissions from aviation account for about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and about 13% of transport emissions globally. The large majority of these emissions comes from international flights.

The amount of CO2 emissions from aviation is expected to grow around 3-4 per cent per year. By 2020, global international aviation emissions are projected to be around 70% higher than in 2005 even if fuel efficiency improves by 2% per year. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasts that by 2050 they could grow by a further 300-700% (source).

“This recognition is a testament to the great value of the project-based approach to engineering education of the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and the industry-ready students that we produce,” said Professor Aleksandar Subic, Dean of the School. “A special note of congratulations to Graham Dorrington, CLiMA’s academic supervisor, who was vital in helping develop their innovative project submission,” he added.

The team’s academic supervisor, Dr Graham Dorrington, said “Airbus can find no fault with the concept and technically we think it can be done.”

The first prize team will win $40,000 and the right to host an innovation week on their university campus run by Airbus experts. The runner-up will receive $20,000. Altogether, approximately $58,000 in prize money has been put up by Airbus.

Winners will be announced in Paris on 14 June, at a ceremony at UNESCO’s headquarters.

A second RMIT team, Affordable Liquid Methane Aircraft (ALMA), was selected for the final round of the Fly Your Ideas 2013 Video Competition. Members of the public can vote for their favourite video online until 3 June, with the winner picked from one of the final five video entries.

Luke Spiteri said the CLiMA and ALMA proposals could help catalyse a major aviation transformation in which conventional jet fuel would be replaced by much cheaper liquid methane.

(Primary source: RMIT)

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