A British company is working on technology that would reduce the number of contrails produced by airplanes to reduce the environmental impact of air travel.
A computer system built by Cambridge-based Satavia will reroute flights to avoid areas where contrails form.
This process, it claims, will prevent contrails from forming and thus eradicate the harmful environmental impact they have.
Satavia claims the technology could eliminate as much as 60 percent of the climate impact per flight.
Worldwide air travel is responsible for about two percent of all human CO2 emissions, but these figures pale in comparison to the impact of contrails.
Previous research shows that contrails are twice as bad for the planet as airplanes’ CO2 emissions, accounting for about 60 percent of aviation’s total climate impact.
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Contrails form when the engine soot is covered with water vapor and then freezes in the atmosphere. In areas of high humidity, this then leads to crystals that form contrail and fuse with clouds to form ‘contrail cirrus’ clouds that can last 18 hours. These clouds prevent heat from escaping and reflect it back to Earth, like a huge blanket
Worldwide air travel is responsible for about two percent of all human CO2 emissions, but these figures pale in comparison to the impact of contrails. contrails are twice as bad for the planet as airplanes’ CO2 emissions, accounting for about 60% of aviation’s total climate impact
WHAT ARE CONTRAILS?
Contrails are created when water vapor from an airplane’s exhaust mixes with outside air and condenses and freezes.
This forms a temporary stripe in the air that appears to be dragging from the plane.
They eventually form ‘cirrus clouds’ that contribute to global warming because they reflect less sunlight and cling to the surface more, in a phenomenon known as ‘radiative forcing’.
This acts as a blanket over the planet and traps heat, which contributes to global warming.
Satavia has partnered with Aviation X Lab, a plan to help start-ups, and its technology has sparked the interest of the RAF and an unnamed airline, according to reports.
Contrails, the crisscross white lines that damage the air, are formed when pieces of unburnt jet fuel carbon are thrown out of the engine and surrounded by water vapor that condenses on them.
In certain areas where humidity is high, these water-covered soot particles freeze and form contrails, which can fuse with natural cirrus clouds.
This forms the thin unique ‘contrail cirrus’ clouds that can last 18 hours.
Contrail clouds reflect heat back to Earth’s surface that would otherwise have drifted harmlessly into space.
By reflecting this heat, condenser trails act like a blanket wrapped around the planet, contributing to global warming.
But not all flights produce contrails, as their existence depends on certain atmospheric conditions.
Specifically, the aircraft must pass through a zone of high humidity known as an ‘ice supersaturation region’.
These areas of thick air are very narrow and the Satavia model is designed to identify these tricky areas and adjust the course of a flight to fly under or over them.
Previous research from Imperial College London found that changing the altitude at which 1.7 percent of flights travel at 2,000 feet would reduce contrail warming by 59.3 percent, with an increase of only 0.014 percent in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Dr. Adam Durant, Satavia’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, says the company’s technology works by creating a ‘digital twin’ of the real world.
Atmospheric data is collected to replicate conditions from the ground to about 100,000 feet.
“ Our model performs about 100 algorithmic calculations every 30 seconds in more than four billion model cells for 26 meteorological parameters, and generates one quadrillion (1,000 trillion) calculations per simulation day – that’s how we define ‘hyperscale,’ ” he said in a statement. statement
Contrail clouds reflect heat back to Earth’s surface that would otherwise have drifted harmlessly into space
The software was created using Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and has made its vast amount of data available to other researchers.
Michael Wignall, Azure Business Lead at Microsoft UK, said: “Microsoft is committed to addressing climate change around the world; not just through our own actions, but by making our tools available to help others reduce the human-led impact on the planet.
By modeling the Earth’s atmosphere, SATAVIA helps the aviation industry better understand the impact on the environment.
“The Azure cloud platform is designed to handle the vast amounts of data that are generated, so that information can be analyzed quickly and easily, ensuring complete security.”