Droning on: The quest for more efficient, readily available aviation fuel

✈️ AVIATION: The University of Illinois Chicago received $8 million from the Army Research Laboratory to develop specialized sensors that allow drones to use different and more efficient types of fuel. The research would also advance hybrid-electric optimization, which has applications for vehicles besides drones.

  • Drones currently operate on a narrow range of jet fuels, and it’s difficult to get that fuel to remote locations, the researchers explain. Plus, the fuel is in limited supply. Other readily available fuels can’t be burned efficiently — or at all — in drones, said Kenneth Brezinsky, the project’s principal investigator and a UIC College of Engineering professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, in a news release.
  • The team’s sensor technology research will identify certain fuel properties and enable drones to adjust to these properties so they can burn the fuels. Machine learning will be used for further sensor development.
  • “The more fuels drones are able to use, the longer and farther they will be able to fly,” said co-principal investigator Patrick Lynch, UIC assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.
  • This project will build on the team’s previous work to determine fuel combustion efficiency during flight and test their sensors in practical applications.

🏭 EMISSIONS: Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) issued a request for information (RFI) for a possible future agency research program focusing on technologies to prevent or abate methane emissions. Currently, this is simply an RFI and not a funding opportunity.

🔬 RESEARCH: Missouri University of Science and Technology researchers have shown for the first time that amino acids can be used to grow thin, high-performance copper films that could be used in solar energy cells, LEDs, and superconductors. Previous research on these films reportedly lacked the qualities needed for using them in electronic applications.

Copper thin films are created by electrodeposition of copper on a self-assembled organic monolayer of the amino acid L-cysteine on gold. Image credit: Bin Luo.

💧 HYDROGEN: Overland Park, Kansas-based engineering consultancy Black & Veatch is joining the nonprofit Center for Hydrogen Safety, which promotes the safe use and handling of hydrogen. Black & Veatch intends for its participation in the group to help accelerate the use of hydrogen as a low-carbon energy source.

🌊 WATER: Zionsville, Indiana-based digital water platform 120Water is partnering with water instrument manufacturer Hach to expand and improve utility water technologies.

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