Will technological advances enable liquefied natural gas powered (LNG) aircraft to take to the skies by mid century, asked the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Boeing has addressed this question by submitting a concept study in February under NASA’s N+4 generation airliners program for 2040-2050, reports Aviation Week. Considered too immature a technology for the N+3 program, NASA believed LNG to be worthy of further investigation. Boeing’s study says it can be done.
The LNG project is named ‘SUGAR Freeze’ – SUGAR is NASA’s acronym for Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research, a term inclusive of eco-fuel, fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and more efficient design. ‘Freeze’ refers to the cryogenic fuel storage.
The study, complete with technological roadmaps, proposes that combined with all other efficiency measures an LNG fuelled aircraft could reduce fuel burn over current aircraft by as much as 62%. Additionally, LNG is projected to offer lower fuel cost because of abundant supply, even as far out at mid-century, and lower emissions.
Further, the technology developed for LNG will assist in the future development of liquid hydrogen fuel solutions.
The N+4 date recognises the significant amount of time it takes for a technology to mature to commercial application by the aviation industry.