Airplane Emissions and Global Warming

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As part of a larger consortium, a team of researchers from the University of Missouri-Rolla has developed a test that will, for the first time, allow scientists to accurately gauge the impact jet aircraft emissions have on global climate change. 


Their work garnered the team a 2007 Climate Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), presented on May 1. 

Led by Dr. Phil Whitefield, UMR’s chair of chemistry and director of the university’s Center of Excellence for Aerospace Particulate Research, the group is part of a larger consortium called the Joint Strike Fighter Emissions Test Development Team. Other members include representatives from Naval Air Systems Command, the EPA, the University of California-Riverside and NASA. 

For more than a decade, Dr. Whitefield and his fellow researchers have been studying particulate emissions produced by aerospace activities, such as aircraft operations and rocket launches. Their work has led to the development of an internationally accepted approach to characterize the nature of particulate matter (soot) in jet engine and rocket exhaust. 

The new test protocol will characterize emissions using state-of-the-art instrumentation, serving as a test bed to advance the scientific basis of environmental decision-making. The EPA’s current testing does not measure the critical environmental criteria, including particulate size, distribution and chemical species. 

The new methodology enables the Department of Defense and commercial aircraft engine manufacturers to gather much more accurate data than was previously possible. It also significantly reduces engine run times during engine testing, lowering greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutant emissions. It also cuts the overall cost of testing by more than $1 million per aircraft engine tested. 

The EPA established the Climate Protection Award in 1998 to recognize exceptional leadership, outstanding innovation, personal dedication and technical achievements in climate protection. publishes science news so organic consumers have access to the latest information on climate change and threats to our environment. You can view more posts by visiting the Environment Section of our blog.

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